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We are pessimists. This is proved by one of the most common mistakes I encounter: the use of the word “last” when it should be “past.”

“Last” means last, literally. Use “last” if it is the end of the road, and there is no hope of ever doing/having/being whatever it is again. Ever. If you can safely substitute “final” for “last,” you should use “last.”

He spent the last months of his life with his family.

Use “past” if it is not necessarily the complete and total end of something. If you can’t safely substitute “final,” use “past.”

During the…

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I know you all spend sleepless nights worrying about how punctuation fits with quotation marks. Does it go inside? Does it go outside? Where, oh where, does it go?

Here’s the deal:

Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks. Always. Did I say always?

Semicolons always go outside quotation marks. Again, always.

Dashes, question marks and exclamation points go inside quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only; they go outside when they apply to the whole sentence:
She asked, “Why are you so anal?”
Did you hear her say, “Stop correcting my grammar; I hate you”?

Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quotation itself.

And please don’t forget that the “6” (“) comes before the “9” (’’).

Sleep well, little pups.

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Capitalism can be a very ugly thing. I say this with all sincerity, though with no reference whatsoever to economic systems. (Trust me: As someone who had to learn economics using M&M’s, this is for the best.)

In my opinion, the worst victims of capitalization are university, president and city. Especially city. Double-especially when referring to lesser cities such as San Francisco. The City? Really? Please.

Here are some examples to help you:
Penn State University has the best football team.
The university will celebrate a national championship this year.

President Obama lived in the White House. but The…

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I am the CMO of a financial-services company. I am the CFO of a bank. I am the head of a real-estate firm. I am the CEO of an insurance company. I am the president of a college. I am the COO of a nonprofit agency.

I am all these things with some regularity. That is, I write as if I were. I am Lauren the Friendly Ghostwriter. (If you’re too young for the reference, read about Casper the Friendly Ghost. He’s lovely.)

How ghostwriting works

I write blog posts, articles, LinkedIn posts, tweets, employee communications and various other materials. I write in…

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A client of mine — who is a general contractor — was considering whether to hire a writer, when he had an epiphany: I could do all the plumbing in the houses I build myself, but I don’t; I hire a plumber, because that’s what they do. Why in the world would I try to write my own web content?

Why, indeed? Presumably, you do what you do because you are good at it. You should keep doing that. And hire others to do what they are good at doing.

In all our efforts to be more productive, increase efficiency…

Lauren Hauptman

Editorial and Creative Services Consultant, Lauren Hauptman Ink

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