Cool Rules Business Writing

Which word?

All Together or Altogether?

All together means collectively, in a group. In most instances, you can (and should) delete the word all.

  • Hari has his family all together for the first time since he moved to Australia.
  • I’d like us to work on this all together, as a team.

Altogether means entirely, or wholly.

  • The way he spoke to his supervisor was altogether inappropriate.
  • Mardi put on a brave face, but it was altogether clear that she was upset.

Collaborate or Cooperate?

Collaborate and cooperate both mean to work together with others.

Collaborate has an emphasis on producing an outcome. The element of getting along with others, while helpful to the overall outcome, is not as prominent in collaborate as it is in cooperate. To collaborate can also mean to give assistance to an enemy or opposing team.

Cooperate has an emphasis on agreement or acquiescence.

  • We need to collaborate on this project.
  • He collaborated with the opposition during the election.
  • She was cooperative even though she didn’t want to be on the team.

Empathy or Sympathy?

Use empathy to mean that you understand a person’s situation because you have experienced the same thing.

  • Marguerite is well-suited to the role. She has a natural empathy with clients.
  • Empathy allows you to put yourself in another person’s shoes.

Use sympathy when you care for someone and offer words or actions of assistance.

  • I passed on our sympathy to her family.
  • There was a good deal of sympathy for members of the losing team.

Learned or Learnt?

When used as the past tense of learn, these words are interchangeable.

  • She learned/learnt about it from Jeff.
  • I learned/learnt the hard way.

Purposefully or Purposely?

Purposefully means with a sense of purpose; with determination.

Purposely means to do something intentionally, with a specific purpose in mind.

  • I tackled the job purposefully. I was full of energy and enthusiasm.
  • He purposefully pursued his goal.
  • The report was purposely full of obscure and confusing terminology..
  • He purposely left his business card on the Marketing Director’s desk. He wanted to meet with her again.

Shaun McNicholas is the founder and principal of Cool Rules [for writers], an Adelaide-based consultancy working with organisations across Australia to improve workplace writing. He is the author of Cool English: A Musical Guide to Better Grammar and Writing (2001), The Apostrophe Song iPhone app and the Cool Rules Really Useful Quick-Guide to Australian Punctuation.

Shaun is running two workshops (The Write Stuff and Minutes Matter) at the Education Development Centre in Hindmarsh, South Australia, on 17 and 20 May 2019. Places are limited. Contact us to book.

May 2, 2019

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