Relations: Effective Business Communications, Part Four

Effective Business Communications, Part Four

by Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM / Published May 2015

We have reviewed quite a list of communication basics:

•  Professionalism

•  Manners

•  Dress (These first three categories were covered in the February FLCAJ)

•  Grammar (See the March FLCAJ)

•  E-mail and paper letter etiquette (See the April FLCAJ)

All of which may be for naught if your written correspondence, whether e-mail or paper letters, is not properly punctuated. Abbreviations or texting shortcuts should always be avoided. Let’s review the basics of punctuation.


Period (.)

Use at the end of a sentence. The letter to the delinquent owner was mailed yesterday.

Use after all initials and most abbreviations. The request for access to records was sent in by Ray Holmes, Ph.D., who lets everyone know he is Dr. Holmes.

Use between dollars and cents. The balance on the owner’s account is $541.26.

Question mark (?)

Use after a direct question or an abbreviated question. 

What time did you say the annual meeting started? And was it in the Regency Room? Towers Room? 

Exclamation point (!)

Use after an exclamatory sentence or expression to indicate strong emotion. 

That is a disgusting statement she made about you!

Comma (,)

Use after an introductory expression. Whichever course of action you decide, we will support you in every way we can.

Use after an introductory phrase containing a verb form. Having just received a telephone call from the Clerk of the Court, I am writing to inform you that the clerk needs additional funds in order to record your Claim of Lien.

Use after an introductory word, such as for instance, in brief, on the contrary, or for example. In brief, I believe it would be to your advantage to settle your delinquent balance out of court.

Use with a parenthetical expression or a name in direct address. The Clerk, I believe, has raised their recording fees. 

It would seem the Clerk, the Honorable John Smith, has the  authority to do so.

Use in a series where there are three or more similar expressions with the last one joined by the word and or or. We could meet with you anytime next Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.

Use to indicate omission of “and.” A long, complicated mediation procedure has finally ended in an impasse.

Use when joining two adjectives. A long, complicated arbitration was finally decided by the arbiter in favor of the association.

Use with a quotation. An earlier letter from the attorney stated, “We are appealing the arbitration decision and requesting a trial in the contested access to records.”

Use in an address or date. This letter will confirm our telephone conversation on November 5, 2014, regarding the letter we received from the Division of Condominiums. The correct address for the Division is 1927 Monroe Street, Tallahassee, Florida.

Use between independent clauses. I would appreciate an immediate reply to this letter, but in the meantime, I will contact the Division of Condominiums.

Use to indicate omission of understood words. A partial down payment of $1,000 is due immediately; the remainder, to be due 10 days before closing. 

Use with contrasted expression. A good witness states only the facts, not hearsay evidence, at all times.

Semicolon (;)

Use between independent clauses. I have a copy of Mr. Smith’s rental agreement; the original is in his possession.

Use when used with a conjunctive adverb such as accordingly, however, nevertheless, or consequently (use the semicolon before and the comma afterwards). The Judge has agreed to your serving with me as co-receiver; consequently, I am enclosing for your signature the necessary papers to effectuate the appointment.

Use in a series that already includes commas. The Petitioner, Joe Blow, is 75 years old; his health has been failing; and communications between counsel and the Petitioner have been impaired.

Use before an introductory expression with words such as for example, that is, namely, and for instance. I discussed a very important matter with the Judge; namely, the method of accomplishing the settlement of the arbitration proceeding.

Betsy Barbieux

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM

Florida CAM Schools

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while at the same time dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. For more than 15 years, Barbieux has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Barbieux is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. For more information, contact, (352) 326-8365, or

Colon (:)

Use before an introductory expression when an illustration, list, or an explanation is used. In light of the decisions made by the Florida Supreme Court in 1996 regarding the unlicensed practice of law by CAMs, legislators overturned several of the prohibited activities: namely, the preparation of a Notice of Intent to Lien and an Estoppel Certificate.

Use after an introductory expression. I am enclosing the following checks for deposit into the reserve account: Check #2345, Check #987, and Check #687.

Quotations (“__”)

Use with a complete quotation. Section 718.111(1)(a), Florida Statutes, clearly states: “An officer, director, or manager may not solicit, offer to accept, or accept anything or service of value for which consideration has not been provided for his or her own benefit or that of his or her immediate family, from any person providing or proposing to provide goods or services to the association.”

Use with an incomplete quotation. Part of Section 718.111(1)(b), Florida Statutes, addresses fiduciary duty and the board member’s failure to perform “shall be liable for monetary damages,” which puts a board member’s personal assets at risk.

Do not use with a lengthy quotation. Indent the quoted paragraphs five spaces from the left and right and omit quotation marks. Harassment is unwanted conduct related to a relevant, protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for that individual.

    Whether your association has one employee or dozens, you must include in your Employees’ Handbook policies as required by your EPLI policy.

Or type a quotation mark at the beginning of each quoted paragraph, but use a closing quotation mark only at the end of the last quoted paragraph. Use single quotation marks to enclose any quotations within the quotation. “While many associations may only have one or two employees, they have dozens and hundreds of residents, a few of which could become the ‘third party’. Visualize an angry resident charging into the association office (more than once), yelling at the manager, threatening bodily harm, calling her names with so much venom that the veins in his neck pop out. This angry resident might be considered a ‘third-party’ harasser. The association could face some risk here and the board needs to act immediately.

    “Apparently, this type behavior happens enough that the insurance industry has created a policy to cover various employment risks. It is called an Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policy.”

Properly arrange the order of quotation marks with other punctuation marks. Always type the comma and the period inside the closing quotation mark; type the colon and semicolon outside the closing quotation mark. Place other punctuation marks inside or outside the closing quotation mark according to the sense of the sentence. “The Seller,” as referred to in the Warranty Deed, is said to have full power and authority to sell the particular piece of property referred to therein.

    The papers were clearly marked “Rush”; however, they were not sent by overnight mail.

    You will have to ask your attorney, “What is to become of the property when my husband dies”?

    The attorney answered your original question, “What is to become of the property when my husband dies?”

Parentheses ()

Use to enclose numbers, figures expressed in words, and to set off parenthetic or supplementary material. Sixty (60) days prior to the annual election, a First Notice of Election is to be delivered (not mailed) to owners. The estimated cost per envelope is forty-nine cents ($.49)

Apostrophe (‘)

Use to indicate possession; the omission of letters in a contraction; and to indicate plural of abbreviations, letters, figures, and words; expressions of time; or measure. Mr. Huggins’ maintenance department is operating at its peak capacity. He indicated he couldn’t function so efficiently if it wasn’t for his CAM’s superior knowledge of the facilities. Their next deadline is 5 o’clock Monday afternoon when the final 100′ of road are coated.

Punctuation can be tricky. Double check your work before you hit send or put that letter into an envelope.