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August 22, 2007



I work with sales reps who send out cringe-worthy emails like the Schwab COO's all the time. While we, the writers, recognize that our skills are always in need, how do you get the linguistically challenged to realize that poor writing, incorrect grammar, misspellings, etc., DO matter in this fast-paced world? The bad communicators I've worked with don't recognize the severity of the problem and dismiss me as an anal-retentive school marm.


if you are ever caught without the %CC, try this. Divide the second number by the first (eg 13 / 745) and then multiply by one hundred. If the answer is X, then the second number is X percent of the first. So here 13 / 745 = 1.7% Surely no-one does that in their head now anyway, you just need a calculator. To get the percentage change . type 100 - X. Here, 98.3%

Jane Howitt

Oh my, oh my! Just read the Language Log thing about the systems slowdown. Haven't laughed so much on my own for ages!

Tell me, are these intelligent grown-ups we're talking about here?

You're so right, of course; the world certainly needs good writers. But why is so difficult to get so many of the poor dears to recognise that they need us??


I subtract the smaller number from the larger, then divide the result by 1% of the first number. So I would get


732 / 7.45 = 98.255...

That seems more intuitive to me somehow. I want to know how many units of 7.45 (each one worth 1%) will fit into 732. What I find intriguing is that an increase from 13 to 745 is more than 5,000 per cent! Now you're asking how many units of .13 go into 732. It's not a very intuitive way of thinking about the relationship between two numbers.

Dan Santow

Mark, Jonathan, your examples of what to d if you ever get caught without the percent change calculator is EXACTLY why I can never allow myself to be caught without the percent change calculator.


But Dan, assuming you have a calculator/mobile phone/Blackberry, what is so hard about:

Divide the small number by the big number and then multiply by one hundred.


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Why "Word Wise"?

  • When I started to e-mail out a weekly writing tip to my Chicago colleagues at Edelman in 2002, little did I know how quickly how many people outside my office would start to request it. But word spread, as word is wont to do, and in 2006 the e-mail evolved into this blog. The tips, which are about grammar, usage and style, have a dual purpose – to remind my colleagues in PR of the power of the written word and, more generally, to support and perpetuate clear, concise, creative, honest, lively, stylish, compelling writing everywhere. In 2009 I started to add commentary about and links to stories and other blog posts related to the media, marketing, writing and, sometimes, just interesting stuff. For some reason, I also started Twittering (at SantowDan).