Tabs on Writing

The Business of Business Writing by John Tabellione, Principal at

Mind Your P’s and Q’s

Posted by John on 20 September 2017 | No responses

We recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. Naturally, we visited just about all of the various famous sites where we learned to queue up with all of the other tourists:

One place we didn’t get a chance to queue up, unfortunately, due to time restraints, was the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, founded in 1759. We did, however, manage to quaff a few Guinness pints at local pubs during our vacation, where we learned to mind our P’s and Q’s. Tradition has it that the term originated in the 17th century when bartenders tallied the the pints and quarts, that is, the P’s and Q‘s consumed by the regulars. In turn, the barkeep might recommend that the customers “mind their P’s and Q’s.”

Incidentally, not only did each of these attractions and locations exceed our expectations, we had the luck of the Irish on our side: the Good Lord decided to cue beautiful weather for us, typically a rarity in the foggy, showery British Isles.

Tabs on Branding and Spelling

Posted by John on 6 August 2017 | No responses

In case you haven’t heard, Coca Cola has dared to change the recipe for its Coke Zero calorie-free soda, and has modified the brand name to “Coke Zero Sugar.”

In fact, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey called the new drink a “reinvention of Coke Zero.” Supposedly, it tastes more like original Coca-Cola secret formula, concocted in 1886 by Dr. John Stith Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist. In addition, the bottles and cans of Coke Zero Sugar will emphasize red coloration to look more like regular Coca-Cola containers versus its previous graphic design emphasis on black.

Today, Coke’s hometown newspaper took extreme literary license to misuse the company’s brand in a headline that read: “Coke Zeros (sic) in on how to keep Consumers Happy Amid Changes.” Apparently, the ghost of “New Coke” from 1985 still haunts the corporation’s hallways.

The point of this blog post, however, is that the editors presumably could have at least put the misspelled brand in quotation marks, if their intent was to create a pun. Any student, though, who learns to spell the plural of “zero” (as a verb) from this Sunday’s newspaper headline in that manner will likely end up with zeroes on his or her test.

Let’s hope the popularity of Coke Zero Sugar doesn’t take a nose-dive and go down in flames the way Japanese air force Kamikaze pilots did in World War II, as they intentionally crashed their Zeroes into targets more so than with any other aircraft.


P.S. Personally speaking, it would have been fine with me if Coke had simply kept its first diet soda brand name from 1963: TAB, of course.

Record Rain Delays

Posted by John on 19 July 2017 | No responses

So our granddaughters are visiting this week from Chicago and we’re treating them to everything from a trip to see the pandas at Zoo Atlanta to a Braves/Cubs game at SunTrust Park to one of their favorite fruit snacks: cored pineapple. Last night, we waited out not one, not two, but three rain delays–the longest ever for our family–as a storm cloud hung over the stadium as a bad omen for the home team. Despite the ground crew’s efforts, the Braves skidded backward to a losing record from their recently achieved .500 perch.

The girls, however, are big-time, loyal Cubbies and they struck a chord with the thousands of other Cub fans who had infiltrated the park. We survived 6 innings that began after a two-and-a-half hour rain delay and headed home close to 1:00 a.m. where we and they watch the final few outs.

Each one then proceeded to plug in her power cord to their respective electronic device for the night and then headed off to sleep.

Today the Cubs completed the three game sweep of the Braves according to the script that the “Chicago Tabbies” predicted.

No joy in “mudville” tonight…


The Great Debate

Posted by John on 9 July 2017 | No responses

I received an urgent email this week from an organization stating, “I’m sitting here with baited (sic) breath” for a monetary donation. I didn’t take the bait, however.

Obviously, what they should have written was “with bated breath,” meaning with reduced force or intensity.

Too often people receive and fall for enticing, too-good-to-be-true offers, only to discover too late that the perpetrator had baited and switched them.

When will those spam emails ever abate?


Facebook and Google Found Guilty by EU

Posted by John on 28 June 2017 | No responses

Apparently, if the European Union (EU) does find that the you’re breaking their anti-trust laws, they’re serious about prosecuting, even if you’re a behemoth social media company.

In May, the EU fined Facebook 110 million euros ($122 million) for misleading regulators during a 2014 review of the WhatsApp messaging-service takeover.

And, then just yesterday, Google got hammered when EU regulators fined them a record-breaking €2.42 billion ($2.73 billion with a “b”) for antitrust violations pertaining to its Google’s Shopping search comparison service.

As draconian as these measures may seem, if you read the fine print, the penalties are but a minute percentage of the two companies’ annual sales volumes. Google had revenues last year of $90 billion; Facebook: $27 billion.



A Better Means to An End

Posted by John on 23 June 2017 | No responses

Did you happen to read the news released by the Census Bureau this week that indicates the median age of the U.S. population as  of the most recent figures has grown to 37.9 years old versus 35.3 years old back on April 1, 2000 (no fooling). The median age occurs where half of the population is younger and the other half older. Simply put, we’re all getting a little long in the tooth.

If you’re having trouble making sense of the difference between the median and the mean, statistically speaking, here’s a primer:

The median is the middle point of a number set in which half the numbers are above the median and half are below

The mean, sometimes called the arithmetic mean, is the sum of all the numbers in a set divided by the amount of numbers in the set. Expressed in another way, the average of a set of numbers is the same as its mean; they’re synonymous. For example, the mean or average of 4, 5, 9, 14, and 18 is  50 divided by 5, or 10, whereas the median, or mid-point of these five numbers is 9.

For demographic reasons vis-a-vis statistical reasons, median is more resistant to weighting errors than the mean. “The baby-boom generation is largely responsible for this trend,” said Peter Borsella, a demographer for the Census Bureau. In other words, that large segment would outweigh other age groups if calculated as a straight average, causing an imbalanced result.

You know what I mean?

Do Not Delete the Cookies on This Page

Posted by John on 6 June 2017 | No responses

About five years ago I wrote a post here on Tabs on Writing, comparing the difference in form, substance and spelling about the sweet delicacy known as the macaroon“a small cookie composed chiefly of egg whites, sugar, and ground almonds or coconut,” and macaroni, i.e., pasta made from semolina and shaped in the form of slender tubes.

I was recently reminded by my son that I had inadvertently omitted another, similar-sounding-but-different-spelling gourmet cookie known as a macaron.

All three words are not only derived from the Italian words, maccarone or maccherone; the provenance of each of these foods is also Italy-related.

According to the Food Network,  the flourless and unleavened macaroons were originally made in Italy with egg whites, sugar, and almond paste. Over time some bakers swapped in shredded coconut for the almond paste; others tried using finely ground almonds. The chewy coconut cookies became very popular with the European Jewish community as a perfect treat, being unleavened, for Passover. The meringue-like macaron was developed in the French court by Catherine de Medici’s chefs who brought them from Italy.

Click the following link for a great graphic to help differentiate between the cookies.

Cheeseheads in England Smile for the Camera

Posted by John on 31 May 2017 | No responses

Imagine a sport where thousands of spectators gather to watch and encourage the competitors to slip and slide way down a muddy, 200-yard embankment chasing the prize, which turns out to be a large wheel of double Gloucester (Listeni/ˈɡlɒstər/) cheese? Where else, but in Gloucestershire (pronounced: GLOSS-tər-shər).

The contest: Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling challenge, which dates way back to 1826. Double Gloucester Cheese, by the way, is allowed to age for longer periods than single, and it has a stronger and more savory flavor and is slightly firmer than single.

How much does the target weigh, you may ask? Nine pounds, or 126 stones in English units of mass, but as the cheese whizzes by at speeds up to 70 miles per hour, Newton’s second law of motion–Force=Mass x Acceleration (or F=ma)–applies and that impact would be hundreds of times greater.

When the race ended, what’s left to say to the big cheeses who won as they carted off their prized cakes, but “Whey to go!”



You Know What Happens When You Assume…

Posted by John on 4 May 2017 | No responses

Apparently, final exam time is so stressful at Montana State College, the students have taken to petting a donkey for therapy. They probably assume that some good fortune will result, at least the ones who major in animal husbandry.

FYI, “Burro” is the Spanish word for donkey, borrowed and used in English to differentiate between domesticated and wild donkeys. A mule, on the other hand, is the offspring of a horse and a donkey

Donkeys, when bored or just because they are donkeys, can burrow, or dig, big holes looking for roots and creating a nice soft dirt place to lay and roll.

Meanwhile, back in Bozeman, no news yet as to how the students who petted the animal fared in their exams. They most likely are intelligent students, certainly not jackasses.

Somehow, though, I can’t imagine this asinine trick of dragging a stubborn animal playing very well in any college library in a New York City borough, such as NYU, Columbia, City University of New York, or Fordham.

Mets Knuckle Under to Former Team Member

Posted by John on 27 April 2017 | No responses

With the Atlanta Braves having been in the throes of a 6-game losing streak prior to arriving in rainy New York Tuesday, and the New York Mets in the midst of their own 4-game downward spiral at the time, something had to give.

Wednesday, Braves ace, Julio Tehran, was in the forefront: allowed only four hits: walked four and struck out foot four; and he improved his record to 4-0 with a 0.91 Earned Run Average in the last seven starts he’s thrown against New York, dating to June 21, 2015.

Today, Braves pitcher, R.A. Dickey, who throws a nasty knuckleball, turned the tables on his former Met teammates. Dickey only gave up two earned runs and struck out three batters, but, unfortunately, threw out his back running to first base in the fourth, thus he was only able to last through five innings.

Dickey, an avid reader who’s written an autobiography, said he would have been an English professor had he not become a baseball player. Perhaps that is why his theme song when he comes to home plate to hit is the music from “Game of Thrones.”