Please, Use Proper Grammar

In the workplace, and with clients, each of us wants to be taken seriously. Proper use of language is the place to start. It’s in the way one speaks and writes.

Here are a few examples of common misuses of English:

  • The word is administer not administrate
  • Avoid using basically or essentially
  • Can – means that you are able to; May – is used to seek permission
  • Don’t try and do something; Try to do something
  • Avoid using gonna
  • Farther is for distance; Further is for effort
  • I have got to must begin studying
  • There – in that place; Their – a possessive form, related to or pertaining to a group of people; They’re – a contraction for they are
  • Impactful is not a word
  • Spell out numbers under ten
  • U.S. means United States, not US
  • Avoid using literally
  • Ordinance – a law or regulation; Ordnance –  military supplies
  • Its – the possessive form of it, e.g. Every dog has its day; It’s – a contraction for it is; e.g. It’s time to go
  • Avoid using plus; Use and
  • Avoid using point in time; Use at this time instead
  • Principle – a law or regulation; Principal – the most important
  • Don’t use so as to; Simply use to
  • Avoid using interesting
  • Avoid kind of, sort of, lots, quite; Please be specific
  • the reason why is because
  • To – indicate movement; Too – typically meaning also; Two – a number; e.g. Don’t try to cover too much in two sentences
  • Avoid using per; Use according to
  • Lie (people lie down); Lay (chickens lay eggs)
  • Lend (to) or borrow (from)
  • Orientate Orient; Same for maturate (mature)
  • Avoid using “Rule of thumb” – it has a questionable background
  • Would of should be would have; Should of – should have; Could of – could have

In business speech and writing, one should also avoid the use of “Figures of Speech.” The contrivances can easily confuse readers since their meaning can vary by geographic area. Some examples are:

Simile (A is like B) Busy as a bee; Happy as a clam; Blind as a bat; Brave as a lion
Metaphor (A is B) Feeling blue; The stench of failure
Idiom Over the moon; Bought the farm; Gun to your head; Neck of the woods
Colloquialism Upstate; Uptown; Down river; West coast; Y’all
Hyperbole This thing weighs a ton; So poor, I can’t even pay attention
Cliche The writing on the wall; When life hands you lemons, make lemonade
Jargon Warfighter; Compartmentalization; Vetronics; Avionics
Acronym (makes a word) FEMA, STEM, ASAP, NASA, IKEA
Initialism (just first letters) GPS, AMA, BBC, IRS, USA

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.”  He is currently an Expert-in-Residence at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator and a volunteer with other clients.

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