Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Sometimes you can recognize instantly that a message will lead to trouble. When you are angry or upset, you know better than to bang out a hostile email. But some sticky circumstances may not be obvious. Ask yourself these 10 questions to recognize potential problems. If you answer yes to any question, think twice or get advice before communicating in email.
1. Could this be someone else’s news to share?
In your excitement about good news, you may want to broadcast the information quickly. Maybe your company has won the contract, grant, or lawsuit. Maybe the amazing candidate has accepted the job offer. But before you email the news, ask yourself whether it is YOUR news or someone else’s to share. Sharing news that is not yours can deflate other people’s pride and excitement. It can even suggest that you were responsible for the accomplishment. On the job, don’t think of yourself as a newscaster, sharing updates whenever they happen. Let the good news come from those who own it.
2. Do certain people need to learn this news before others?
People who will be most affected by news should receive it first. For instance, if several internal candidates apply for a position, the applicants should learn which one of them got the job before everyone in the company finds out. If a team will move to another city, the people on the team need the information before the entire company requires it. Informing people in advance shows them respect, and it eliminates the embarrassment of their not knowing before others do. Avoid needless problems by thinking about your various audiences before sending one all-company message.
3. Could including others on the Cc line hurt someone’s feelings, relationships, or reputation?
It is easy to get in the habit of Ccing the team or replying to all to keep everyone informed. But everyone should NOT be informed when there is any chance that the information will embarrass or harm others. Tasks such as communicating constructive feedback, denying a request, disagreeing—even sending a straightforward reminder to someone who has missed a deadline—can create embarrassment and bad feelings when other people get a copy of the email. In these situations, do not Cc or reply to all. Communicate privately with the individual involved.
4. Do I have feelings of discomfort about sending this message? Is there a small voice warning me not to do this?
When you have any doubts about sending an email, listen to them. Doubts and feelings of discomfort are huge signs of likely insensitive communication. Maybe the solution is to wait, not communicate, or ask your manager or your human resources representative for help. It is better to delay communicating than to have to heal a strained relationship or apologize for a serious blunder.
5. Might my manager, my human resources rep, or another professional have advice for me to consider?
You may know that you need to communicate, and there is no small voice telling you not to. Yet other people may be able to help you express yourself more diplomatically or appropriately. When you suspect that your email will fall short and may damage relationships, seek advice from a trusted guide. The advice may be to call or meet in person rather than emailing.
6. Would a face-to-face or phone conversation manage this situation more effectively?
Sometimes email does not work because it is just crisp words on a screen, not the voice of a human being in conversation. Situations in which email may be insensitive are communicating bad news, denying a request, apologizing, and giving performance feedback. Email isn’t always wrong in these circumstances, but it can be.
7. Could the timing of this communication be unfortunate for any reason?
Sometimes a message is right but the timing is wrong. Maybe the timing affects one individual badly, or maybe a whole group will rebel if they receive such a message now. If an employee has just shared with you that his spouse is ill, for instance, he will not welcome a message saying overtime is required until the project is completed. If a team is preparing for a huge implementation, learning that the leader has given two weeks’ notice may cause an uproar. Such delicate situations don’t require that you hide the news but that you communicate it sensitively—maybe individually, maybe in a group meeting—and allow two-way communication.
8. Is it possible that I do not have all the information to understand this situation?
Assumptions and Incomplete information damage workplace communication every day. You may think that someone is ignoring your email, when you are using an incorrect address. A delay may suggest to you that your boss has rejected your proposal, when she is really taking time to gain approval for it. Do not send email inspired by assumptions, or you risk creating a problem unnecessarily.
9. Could this topic be inappropriate for a workplace communication?
In most workplaces, religion, race, politics, sex, sexual orientation, and physical appearance are off-limits as topics in written messages. Words, cartoons, and other images on these topics will be hurtful to some people, which is the reason workplaces prohibit them. It is not acceptable to send a message on these topics to even one person because of the necessity of keeping the workplace safe and welcoming for everyone.
10. Could anything about this communication make my company look bad?
Your unstated purpose in every communication is to present your organization as positively as possible. Imagine your email featured on a six o’clock evening news program. Would it make your company look like a good corporate citizen and employer? Or could it lead to scandal and embarrassment? If anything about the message might present the organization in a negative light, talk to your human resources and legal departments before moving forward.
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Those using the abbreviations do so as a tactic for speed in text communication, a university professor on linguistics said, while others just choose to do so because they are a code that older people don’t quite understand.
WeAreSocial.com.au managing director Julian Ward said the various different shortcuts, which range from the the compassionate ILY (I Love You) to the more profain WTF (What the F***) are commonplace now and indicate the changing way people harness social media.
Using social listening tools, WeAreSocial.com.au monitored trending terms used by Australians on Twitter from April 1 to June 30.
The top ranking term was, LOL which was used a total of 1,242,935.
‘We can see a range of clever to practical acronyms as people look for speed and limited thumb work – plus of course it feels good to be in the know, especially on more subversive terms,’ Mr Ward said.
2. OMG: Oh my god
3. ILY: I love you
4. LMAO: Laughing my a** off
5. WTF: What the f***?
6. PPL: People
7. IDK: I don’t know?
8. TBH: To be honest
9. BTW: By the way
10. THX: Thanks
11. SMH: Shaking my head
12. FFS: For f***’s sake
13. AMA: Ask me anything
14. FML: F*** my life
15. TBT: Throwback Thursday
16. JK: Just kidding
17. IMO: In my opinion
18. YOLO: You only live once
19. ROFL: Rolling on the floor laughing
20. MCM: Mancrush Monday
21. IKR: I know right?
22. FYI: For your information
23. BRB: Be right back
24. GG: Good game
25.IDC: I don’t care
26. TGIF: Thank God it’s Friday
27. NSFW: Not safe for work
28. ICYMI: In case you missed it
29. STFU: Shut the f*** up
30. WCW: Womancrush Wednesday
31. IRL: In real life Read More…
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by Sonia Simone
Professional writers get work because they hit their deadlines, they stay on their message, and they don’t throw too many tantrums. Some pros have a great writing voice or a superb style, but as often as not, that gets in the way. When you know that the best word is “prescient,” it’s hard to swallow when an account manager tells you the client won’t know what it means.
Professional writers rely on editors to fix their clunks. Like good gardeners, sensitive editors don’t hack away—we prune and gently shape. When we’ve done a great job, the page looks just like it did before, only better. It’s the page the writer intended to write.
Editing, like writing, takes time to learn. But here are five fixes I make with nearly every project. Learn to make them yourself and you’ll take your writing to a more professional, marketable, and persuasive level.
1. Sentences can only do one thing at a time.
Have you ever heard a four-year-old run out of breath before she can finish her thought? I edit a lot of sentences that work the same way. You need a noun, you need a verb, you might need an object. Give some serious thought to stopping right there.
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There are so many words in the English language that it’s not surprising that the definitions for some of them have gotten mixed up over the years. It’s possible that you’ve gone your entire life without realizing your mistakes. I’m sure people have noticed. How long have you been using that word incorrectly, you wonder? How many angry Facebook rants have you ruined with your improper grammar? While I can’t give you an answer to those questions, I can at least provide you with a list of other tricky words so that you may never have to suffer from this embarrassment ever again:
What you may think it means: a tragedy, an unfortunate event
What it actually means: a mockery; a parody
This one, I’ll admit, is my own personal error. For the longest time, I equated travesty with tragedy, mostly because in passing, they sound like the same word. It’s stupid, I know, but if you knew how many times I confused fetal position with beetle position, you wouldn’t be laughing. It’s a serious problem.
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Don’t get in the way of your own learning. Here are five ways to step aside and continue to increase your smarts.
By Kevin Daum @ http://www.inc.com
Most people don’t really think much about how they learn. Generally you assume learning comes naturally. You listen to someone speak either in conversation or in a lecture and you simply absorb what they are saying, right? Not really. In fact, I find as I get older that real learning takes more work. The more I fill my brain with facts, figures, and experience, the less room I have for new ideas and new thoughts. Plus, now I have all sorts of opinions that may refute the ideas being pushed at me. Like many people I consider myself a lifelong learner, but more and more I have to work hard to stay open minded.
But the need for learning never ends, so your desire to do so should always outweigh your desire to be right. The world is changing and new ideas pop up everyday; incorporating them into your life will keep you engaged and relevant. The following are the methods I use to stay open and impressionable. They’ll work for you too. No matter how old you get.
1. Quiet Your Inner Voice
You know the one I am talking about. It’s the little voice that offers a running commentary when you are listening to someone. It’s the voice that brings up your own opinion about the information being provided. It is too easy to pay more attention to the inner voice than the actual speaker. That voice often keeps you from listening openly for good information and can often make you shut down before you have heard the entire premise. Focus less on what your brain has to say and more on the speaker. You may be surprised at what you hear.
2. Argue With Yourself
If you can’t quiet the inner voice, then at least use it to your advantage. Every time you hear yourself contradicting the speaker, stop and take the other point of view. Suggest to your brain all the reasons why the speaker may be correct and you may be wrong. In the best case you may open yourself to the information being provided. Failing that, you will at least strengthen your own argument.
3. Act Like You Are Curious
Some people are naturally curious and others are not. No matter which category you are in you can benefit from behaving like a curious person. Next time you are listening to information, make up and write down three to five relevant questions. If you are in a lecture, Google them after for answers. If you are in a conversation you can ask the other person. Either way you’ll likely learn more, and the action of thinking up questions will help encode the concepts in your brain. As long as you’re not a cat you should benefit from these actions of curiosity.
4. Find the Kernel of Truth
No concept or theory comes out of thin air. Somewhere in the elaborate concept that sounds like complete malarkey there is some aspect that is based upon fact. Even if you don’t buy into the idea, you should at least identify the little bit of truth from whence it came. Play like a detective and build your own extrapolation. You’ll enhance your skills of deduction and may even improve the concept beyond the speaker’s original idea.
5. Focus on the Message Not the Messenger
Often people shut out learning due to the person delivering the material. Whether it’s a boring lecturer, someone physically unappealing, or a member of the opposite political party, the communicator can impact your learning. Even friends can disrupt the learning process since there may be too much history and familiarity to see them as an authority on a topic. Separate the material from the provider. Pretend you don’t know the person or their beliefs so you can hear the information objectively. As for the boring person, focus on tip two, three, or four as if it were a game, thereby creating your own entertainment.
Photo credit: http://financialpostbusiness.files.wordpress.com
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“The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit.”
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A small part of my job is to edit, proof-read, correct, …
The major part is to ensure all the departments are conveying the right message and keep a common house style for all communications. Yet some of the complacent co-workers insist that this means that we (PR&Communications Unit) are just a rabble of plain mortals whose sole ability in life is to put commas here and there.
“It’s easier to teach a poet how to read a balance sheet than it is to teach an accountant how to write.”
– Henry R. Luce (1898-1967)
Here’s one for you, sloppy co-worker. It matters. Got the chip on my shoulder now. Try me. 😉
If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building.
Some might call my approach to grammar extreme, but I prefer Lynne Truss’s more cuddly phraseology: I am a grammar “stickler.” And, like Truss — author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves — I have a “zero tolerance approach” to grammar mistakes that make people look stupid.
Now, Truss and I disagree on what it means to have “zero tolerance.” She thinks that people who mix up their itses “deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave,” while I just think they deserve to be passed over for a job — even if they are otherwise qualified for the position.
Everyone who applies for a position at either of my companies, iFixit or Dozuki, takes a mandatory grammar test. Extenuating circumstances aside (dyslexia, English language learners, etc.), if job hopefuls can’t distinguish between “to” and “too,” their applications go into the bin.
Of course, we write for a living. iFixit.com is the world’s largest online repair manual, and Dozuki helps companies write their own technical documentation, like paperless work instructions and step-by-step user manuals. So, it makes sense that we’ve made a preemptive strike against groan-worthy grammar errors.
But grammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn’t make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.
Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isn’t in the official job description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.
On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?
Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use “it’s,” then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.
Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.
In the same vein, programmers who pay attention to how they construct written language also tend to pay a lot more attention to how they code. You see, at its core, code is prose. Great programmers are more than just code monkeys; according to Stanford programming legend Donald Knuth they are “essayists who work with traditional aesthetic and literary forms.” The point: programming should be easily understood by real human beings — not just computers.
And just like good writing and good grammar, when it comes to programming, the devil’s in the details. In fact, when it comes to my whole business, details are everything.
I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important. And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on résumés. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.
That’s why I grammar test people who walk in the door looking for a job. Grammar is my litmus test. All applicants say they’re detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.
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What I’ve been bloggin’ lately:
- What type of geek are you?
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