4 Communication Blunders

As a young adult, I knew grammar was not a strong point for me. I realized this after numerous conversations that included sideways glances, unintended corrections (that’s when folks repeat what you just said only using proper grammar or pronunciations), and hesitations before answering my question (I learned later that during the hesitation the listener was actually “translating” what I just said into proper English). I was constantly embarrassed by my poor grammar, and I set out to correct it. I learned that the best way to learn proper grammar (in any language) was to read formal writing. So I read… and my grammar improved. Later in life, I was fortunate to work under the leadership of a woman that taught both speech and English. She very patiently answered the rest of my grammar questions and gently corrected me where I needed it. I will never forget those lessons learned. drivingschoolintoronto

Well, you know how when you learn a new word, you see it everywhere? That’s how it was for me with my new communication skills. Once I learned the correct way, I begin to see my former mistakes everywhere! Here are a few of the biggest communication lessons I learned along the way.

She, Terry, and I
The following sentences used to stump me all the time.

A. Me and Terry went to the store.
Terry and I went to the store.

B. Terry and her went to the store.
She and Terry went to the store.

Here’s how to figure out which is correct: break the sentence into two different sentences and test them. If both of the new sentences make sense, then you use those words. Let’s start with the first sentence — Me and Terry went to the store. This sentence becomes:

Me went to the store. Terry went to the store.

“Me went to the store” doesn’t make sense, so the sentence – Me and Terry went to the store – is incorrect.

Let’s try the next sentence — Terry and I went to the store. This sentence becomes:

Terry went to the store. I went to the store.

Both sentences make sense, and therefore “Terry and I went to the store” is the correct sentence.

Using the same test, which sentence is correct?

Terry and her went to the store.
She and Terry went to the store.

If you chose, “She and Terry went to the store,” you are correct!

Commas and Semicolons in a Series

Use commas when listing groups of three or more nouns, verbs, adjectives, or clauses. Always include a comma before the joining word. Here are examples:

· apple, orange, and pear
· cored, peeled, and sliced
· sweet, ripe, and tasty
· picked this morning, peeled in the sink, and sliced with a processor

Use semicolons to separate groups of three or more when commas can cause confusion. Here are examples:

· Stops on our tour include Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; and Miami, FL.
· The morning presenters are Terry Brown, Owner; Pat Greene, Sales Manager; and Stacy Long, Program Director.

Titles versus Roles: When to capitalize
Titles describe people while roles describe their responsibilities. Titles are always capitalized and generally appear after the person’s name. temp-mail

· Senita L. Sullivan, Project Manager, will be tonight’s guest speaker.

Roles are never capitalized and can appear with or without a person’s name.

· The project manager will be tonight’s guest speaker.
· The project manager, Senita L. Sullivan, will be the guest speaker.
· Senita L. Sullivan, our project manager, will be the guest speaker.

Similar rules apply to organizational departments. If the department is part of the person’s title, it’s capitalized; otherwise, it’s always lower-case.

· Pat Greene, Sales Manager, Blue Department
· Pat Greene is the sales manager of the blue department.
· The blue department will meet at noon.

Gender Neutrality
In business writing, it is very important to remain gender neutral when addressing groups of people. First, let me explain the difference between sex and gender. Sex is a person’s biological make-up. Sex is either male or female. Gender is how a person socially identifies with their sex. Common gender terms are man, woman, lady, and gentleman.

Some years ago, I was contracted by a construction company in NJ. One of my project teams consisted of three young women. At the start of our first weekly check-in, I very cheerfully welcomed the women into my office with a hearty “Good morning, Ladies!” My greeting was met with one look of sheer confusion and two frowns. One of two that frowned said, “Ladies? Who the crap told you I was a lady!?”

In another incident a few months later, I was attending a writing workshop in which one of the female attendees wanted to know if it was politically correct to send e-mails out addressing the readers as “ladies”. The host of the workshop said that this was fine as long as all the addressees were women. The person who asked the question then said she and the other five assistants are all women, and they often received e-mails that addressed them as “ladies” (e.g. “Good morning, ladies”). She said she found the term “lady” highly offensive and preferred not to be addressed as such. While she didn’t explain why she found the term offensive, we could all clearly see that she was bothered by it and had been for a while. The host suggested that she address her concern with the sender privately.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *