Business & Technical Writing/If and When


QUESTION: Hi Warren,

Which is proper
If it is already working, I'll give you a call.


When it is already working, I'll give you a call.

Already means it's already done right. Could you also give a brief explanation to your answer.

Thanks a lot.


ANSWER: OK, Bernard. I think it would build your self-confidence if you could figure out the answer to your own question. I also think the answer is looking you right in the eye, but you might have stared at the problem for so long that you can't see it. Problems are like that sometimes.

I'm going to try to encourage you to answer your own question by answering some questions I'm going to ask you. I'll ask them one at a time. I'll bet that you can see the answer to what you asked me when you answer my questions.

Here we go:

Do you know the difference between (a) an independent clause and (b) a dependent clause? (It's really crucial that you know the difference. This is one of the two keys to you seeing the answer.)

Bear with me here, and you'll see why we're doing it this way.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Yes, I do know. Then let's change the sentences to loose sentences. hich would be correct.
I'll give you a call if it's already working.
I'll give you a call when it's already working.

My focus is the world "already" to be appropriate to which of the two.

You didn't answer my question, and your rewritten sentences do not solve the problem. Therefore, I'm not convinced you know the difference. However, you have the correct focus.

Adverbs weaken and confuse writing . Avoid them.

Remove the same adverb from both sentences.

In your opinion, which altered sentence is correct?


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Warren D. Miller


I believe I can answer nearly any question about business writing. That goes in spades if the target audience is a lay readership. I make my living writing and speaking. N.B.: I DO NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS MARKED 'PRIVATE' because I believe that knowledge should be shared, not hoarded. I also believe such questions are likely to be submitted by people trying to cheat. In addition, don't waste your time asking me to write something for you. You don't learn anything if I do that. I'm happy to critique something that YOU write, of course. That's the best way for you to learn how to write well.


My profession is business valuation, which means appraising businesses whose shares are not publicly traded. This requires in-depth knowledge about a number of disciplines, including economics, finance, strategic management, accounting, anthropology, statistics, and psychology. The left-brain part of me must conduct rigorous research and financial analysis. The right-brain side must then separate what matters from what doesn't and then explain it all in writing (and in everyday English) to people (usually business owners, but sometimes judges and juries) who do not have the expertise that I have been lucky enough to acquire over the years. I love what I do and consider myself fortunate to live in a country where I can do what I love doing and make a nice living doing it. I am glad to help with writing issues, but NOT, please, with any valuation, business consulting, or other non-writing questions.

CFA Institute, American Society of Appraisers, Strategic Management Society, Academy of Management, Culver Legion, National Association of Scholars.

Besides two published books (search for "Warren D. Miller" on Amazon), I have written for the Harvard Business Review, American Fly Fisher, Business Valuation Review, CPA Expert, Academy of Management Executive, CFA Digest, Valuation Strategies, and others.

MBA - Oklahoma State U. (1991); BBA - U. of Oklahoma (1975); Chartered Financial Analyst designation (2006) Accredited Senior Appraiser (2006) Certified Public Accountant (1992)

Awards and Honors
Business Valuation Volunteer of the Year (2001) - American Institute of CPAs Winner - Oklahoma Humorous-Speaking Contest - Toastmasters International (1971)

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