By Barbara McNichol
Now more than ever, clarity in communication is important.
We’re all adapting to more virtual meetings and a great deal more email communication. Documents that were discussed around a meeting table and then edited by a single person now make their way to multiple colleagues via email.
We’ve become accustomed to common abbreviations in text messages, such as, “C U @ 8pm @ Rogers, bring appie.” It gets the point across that your friend will show up at Roger’s house at 8:00 pm and you’ll bring an appetizer.
But what about in business interactions? Are correct spelling and grammar still relevant? I’d argue that they most certainly are…and I offer advice for professionals seeking clarity and credibility in their communication.
Here are four common grammar and spelling mistakes that undermine your credibility.
Let me be clear: we’re not going for Shakespeare. But don’t discount the possibility that your peer, manager, or potential employer has a solid grounding in the rules of English grammar and spelling. When you break those rules, you lose (not loose) credibility.
Let’s take a look at four of the most common mistakes. I call them Word Trippers…
1. Who and That.
Who refers to a person. That refers to an object.
“The person that sent you the proposal is an authority on the subject.”
“The person who sent you the proposal is an authority on the subject.”
“That proposal is worth considering. The person who wrote it is an authority on the subject.”
2. Me, myself and I.
I’ll grant you, this one is counter-intuitive. People often use “self” in a sentence, I suspect because they think it sounds more academic and authoritative. It’s “padding” in a sentence, which rarely adds meaning. So you’ll read phrases like this…
“Please contact myself if you have any questions.”
“Please contact me if you have any questions.”
“Myself and Jim will be there at 4:00 pm to discuss the proposal with yourself in person.”
“Jim and I will be there at 4:00 pm to discuss your proposal.”
Yourself is your self…no one can contact yourself. It’s a reflexive pronoun. You can talk to yourself. But nobody else can talk to yourself; he or she can only talk to you.
Consider these examples:
“Jim and me attended the meeting yesterday and it was very informative.”
“Myself and Jim attended the meeting yesterday and it was very informative.”
“Jim and I attended the meeting yesterday.”
Here’s a great way to avoid tripping on this: Test your grammar by removing the second person from the sentence. For example, say this awkward – and grammatically incorrect – sentence:
“Me went to the meeting yesterday.”
And so is this:
“Myself went to the meeting yesterday.”
3. Further or farther?
Have you ever wondered about the difference between further and farther? There’s constant debate around this – and since English is a living language, it’s ever-evolving. However, most experts agreed that further is figurative and farther is literal, referring to a measurable distance.
“Jan has traveled further than anyone else in the company to meet with clients.”
“Jan has traveled farther than anyone else in the company to meet with clients.”
“Farther to the point Jan was making about excess travel for sales meetings, I’d like to send you this report regarding our fleet mileage costs.”
“Further to the point Jan was making about excess travel for sales meetings, I’d like to send you this report regarding our fleet mileage costs.”
4. Apostrophes: the ultimate tripper.
Of all the grammar glitches I see, this is the most common. Misusing this punctuation mark rarely creates confusion in meaning, but it’s a glaring error for people who know the proper usage.
“Its likely we’ll miss our fourth-quarter revenue projections.”
“It’s likely we’ll miss our fourth-quarter revenue projections.”
“Since our sales teams travel expenses have been so high, we’ll take a loss on our fourth-quarter revenue.”
“Since our sales team’s travel expenses have been so high, we’ll take a loss on our fourth-quarter revenue.”
An apostrophe plays two roles in the English language. It signals an abbreviation – “it’s” instead of “it is” – and possession – “the sales team’s travel expenses.”
Pay attention to these common missteps in written communication. There are many others.
Don’t get let poor grammar and spelling prevent you from showing clients and colleagues you’re knowledgeable about your product or service. Contact me for more information.
Did these tips help you? Are you interested in improving your writing? I am offering a $29 discount on my Word Trippers program until the end of May.
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you communicate effectively: