Equipping Professionals to be Effective Communicators
Equipping Professionals to be Effective Communicators
Equipping Professionals to be Effective Communicators
Equipping Professionals to be Effective Communicators

Communication Tips


Are you giving “it” all the credit?


  • Instead of saying, “It has come to my attention…”
  • Say, “I have learned…”.
  • Instead of saying, “It is recommended…”
  • Say, “I recommend…” “The board recommends…”
  • Instead of saying, “It is a pleasure working with you”.
  • Say, “I enjoy working with you.”
  • Instead of saying, “It has to be settled.”
  • Say, “We need to settle this.”


In the above examples, we changed the subject and verb from ‘it is” to words that have precise meaning and action—we moved from passive to active voice.


  • So, instead of saying, “It is active voice that makes your ideas clear and strong.”
  • Say, “Active voice makes your ideas clear and strong.”



June 26, 2017



You’re at a networking event and it’s your turn to stand up and introduce yourself. YIKES!

Here is one way to get and keep your prospects’ attention:

Stand tall, smile, and then confidently, clearly (pause between key words), and energetically tell the group your first and last name, your title, and the name of your company. Then say, “I help (name the target group(s), state the results they will experience, and tell them how they will feel.)” Then repeat your name and company because NOW, you have their attention.

Here’s one way I would do it:

I’m Elizabeth MacDonald. I’m a communication skills advisor. My company is The Verbal Edge.

I help teams and individuals who value communication skills excel in presenting themselves and their messages so they can feel confident when speaking, writing emails, and engaging others.

I’m Elizabeth MacDonald, The Verbal Edge.

Oh, the amazing power of words and the delivery!


June 20, 2017



Choose “to.”  Eliminate “try.”


Instead of using “on” or “and,” use an infinitive (“to” + a verb).


  • Avoid saying: “I’m planning on introducing the boss.”
  • Say: “I’m planning to introduce the boss.”
  • Avoid saying: “I will try and contact the client.
  • One option: “I will try to contact the client.


To transform the above sentence into a confident statement, eliminate “try:”

  • In that sentence, “try” is a confidence-robbing word that sabotages the speaker’s determination and tells others, “This isn’t going to happen.”
  • The best option: “I will contact the client.”


June 12, 2017



Write them as two words—not one.
The words? “All right” and “a lot.” (Instead of alright and alot.)
To remember this, think of the opposite: Would you write “alwrong” and “alittle?”


(“Alright” is acceptable in informal writing; however, if you write a lot, you’ll want to automatically default to the spelling that is all right all the time.)


June 5, 2017



Is it “we” or “us?”

We writers need to know the better choice for us wordsmiths.

The rule is simple: Pretend the word after “us” or “we” is not there and choose what sounds better. (We * need to know the better choice for us * .)

More examples:

  • We neighbors are concerned.
  • He will be speaking to us employees.

For us professionals, knowing this rule means we communicators can write and speak with even more confidence.


May 22, 2017



Best is not always better.

When comparing TWO persons, concepts, places, or things, the word to use is “better.” Use “best” when comparing THREE or MORE.

This rule also applies to other words ending in “er” versus “est.”


  • Between options A and B, the better option is B; however, the best option is D.
  • Jack is the older of the two sons and the oldest of all the children.
  • Anna is taller than Rae. She is also the tallest in her class.
  • The audience voted Derrik the funnier of the two finalists and the funniest comedian of the year.
  • We are accepting the lower bid of the two proposals.
  • Make this a better week than last week…and the best week ever!


May 15, 2017



Reduce verbal clutter by eliminating redundancies.

Here are some examples of redundancies:
(added) bonus, (honest) truth, (close) proximity, every (single), consensus (of opinion), (advanced) planning, (unpaid) volunteer, collaborate (together), nodded (his head), eradicate (completely), evolve (over time), follow (after), gather (together), kneel (down), revert (back), report (back), (mutual) cooperation, (over) exaggerate, PIN (number), postpone (until later), (sum) total, surrounded (on all sides), (temper) tantrum, tall (in stature), (usual) custom, visible (to the eye).

Many more exist.

What verbal redundancies drive you crazy?


April 24, 2017



Where’s the subject?

To discover the subject and clearly see if you need a singular or plural verb, ignore all prepositional phrases between the subject and verb. (I’ve bracketed the propositional phrases below.)


  • One [of the projects] is finished.
  • The projects [for that company] are on schedule.
  • Ten minutes [before all the meetings], Bill, [without his co-workers], walks the halls.
  • The employee [with the skills] and [over all the interns] deserves a bonus.
  • Prepositional phrases, [if they are non-essential], are separated by commas. That’s another clue!

Look again at the examples and notice which prepositional phrases are non-essential—and are, therefore, separated by commas.


April 3, 2017



Are you having “guy” trouble?

When speaking professionally to groups, refrain from saying “guys.” You’ll sound more professional.

The first meaning of “guy” is “a man or a boy: fellow.” Its 2nd meaning is: “informal: persons of either sex: people.” (Dictionary.com). The British Dictionary doesn’t’ include the 2nd meaning.

I hear, “you guys,” from professional speakers, church leaders and staffs, and executives giving presentations.

When I started teaching English, I was surprised to hear myself saying, “Okay, guys, I need your attention.” I worked to eliminate it immediately. It took a few days.

That’s because the reward—for the listeners–is immeasurably greater:

  • Instead of saying, “Good morning, guys. Are you guys ready for…?
  • You say: Good morning. Are you ready for…?

We relate more personally and less like, well, coaches talking to their teams of all men.

And if you’re still thinking of using “guys,” think of the 2nd meaning: “Good morning, people. Are you people ready…?”

Do you really want to communicate that way?


March 27, 2017



Subject/Verb Agreement:

To accomplish this, ignore all prepositional phrases between the subject and verb.


  • One [of the projects] is finished.
  • The projects [for that company] are on schedule.
  • The employee [with the skills and over all the interns] deserves a bonus.
  • Grammar, [throughout the years], has changed.


March 6, 2017



Don’t use an apostrophe to pluralize numbers or abbreviations.

Treat them as you treat traditional words.

Examples of plurals:

  • YMCAs, 1930s, VPs, 100s, PTAs
  • CEOs in the 1990s retired in their 50s.

To show possession/ownership, use the apostrophe:

  • The VP’s vocabulary is similar to1960’s music lyrics.

And if you are among the increasing number of people who are inserting apostrophes to pluralize traditional words, please stop! What we all learned in first grade is still the rule:

  • Correct: The boys are here.
  • Incorrect: The boy’s (or boys’) are here.


February 27, 2017



Is it “your” or “you’re?”

This confusion is just as widespread as “too” vs. “to”. (See my previous Communication Tip.)

Simply put: “You’re” means “you are.” “Your” does not.

“Your” is possessive. Period. Examples: Your cat. Your career.

Your use of the words you’re writing communicates its own message. You’re the composer of your thoughts and words.

Oh, and don’t trust your spell check. Many times, my spell check erroneously prompts me to change “you’re” to “your.” Test your choice.

And when in doubt, write out “you are” instead of “you’re.” (It’s more professional, too.)


February 20, 2017



Singular or Plural?

The words “or” or “nor” indicate you have a choice, and the noun or pronoun closest to the verb determines if the verb is singular or plural.

For example:

  • Either the girls OR their PARENTS STAY.
  • Neither the dogs NOR the CAT LIKES caviar.
  • He guesses either his father OR his sisters ARE SINGING.
  • Either the salespersons OR the BOSS HELPS me. (Your mind OR EARS NEED to adjust to that one!)


January 25, 2017



Singular or Plural?

The words “or” or “nor” indicate you have a choice, and the noun or pronoun closest to the verb determines if the verb is singular or plural.

For example:

  • Either the girls OR their PARENTS STAY.
  • Neither the dogs NOR the CAT LIKES caviar.
  • He guesses either his father OR his sisters ARE SINGING.
  • Either the salespersons OR the BOSS HELPS me. (Your mind OR EARS NEED to adjust to that one!)


January 25, 2017



Think before using GET or GOT.

The correct word might be HAVE, HAS or HAD. In fact, most of the time, that’s the case!

  • Avoid saying: “I got to go now.”
  • Say instead: “I have to go now.”
  • Avoid saying: “Do you GOT your gloves?”
  • Say instead: “Do you HAVE your gloves?

Also, using HAVE or HAS as helping words doesn’t dignify the faux pas.

  • Avoid saying: “He’s got three sisters.” (The “he’s” means he has, so you’re saying, “He has got three sisters.)
  • Say instead: “He has three sisters.”

Do you HAVE the concept?


December 27, 2016



Let’s stretch our vocabulary. And let’s do it by eliminating the qualifier words “very” and “really” and choosing the perfect word.

Instead of saying, “That’s really easy.” Say, “That’s simple, effortless, feasible,” etc.
If you feel ambitious, how about also eliminating the word “pretty” (as in “pretty tasty”)?

To read more on this, check out  “This is Pretty Interesting,” my article on this website.


December 12, 2016



Are you writing “to” when you mean “too”?

I see this mistake frequently–even in emails from people who are, otherwise, excellent writers.

“Too,” the longer of the two words, has the longer list of meanings: extremely, more than desirable, also, very or indeed.

“To” is a preposition: it connects.


  • People may be too hurried or too distracted to focus on these words.
  • These two misspellings are too frequent and may be the result of being too indifferent to the difference.
  • They could be too confident, too.

Here’s to learning!


December 5, 2016



De-murking the WELL/GOOD conundrum: When do we use WELL and GOOD?

WELL is an adverb. It modifies verbs and answers the question How: He slept well, ran well, spoke well, worked well.

GOOD is an adjective. It modifies nouns and answers the question WHAT (kind/type): He had a good time, good run, good speech and she did a good job. Usually when you use “good,” the noun it modifies follows it.

And sometimes that noun precedes it: This example is good.
So, heed well this good advice!


November 7, 2016



When speakers appear uncertain, their listeners doubt their credibility, remain unconvinced, and struggle to relate.

To exude confidence, use a strong voice, maintain eye contact, and eliminate words such as “um, kinda, sorta, I guess, I’ll try.”

Replace with intentional pauses and confidence-exuding words such as “I will, I can, I agree, absolutely, YES.”


September 26, 2016



Word proximity can be your nemesis.

Double-check your word order. We don’t want to confuse (and misinform) our readers.

For example:

  • The jury convicted him for murdering her today. (Same-day decision!)
  • Dust the picture of the children on the shelf. (They must be cramped!)
  • Fortunately, the mouse was entrapped before the meeting. (Fortunate mouse?)
  • Seen on a furniture store sign: We have tables for families with thick legs.
  • Randy was criticized by the boss because he was late. (The boss was late? Write instead: The boss criticized Randy because he was late)

Most of us accidentally misplace words in sentences, and that’s why we need to re-read and correct what we write.


August 22, 2016



Do you collect negative experiences and use them to define you?

Here are two examples:

  • “I knew this would happen: Every time I’m on a team, something goes wrong.”
  • “You’re not catching any fish because I’m in your boat. This happens all the time.”

For pessimists, one negative incident can pervade all other experiences.

For optimists, it is an isolated incident from which the person learns and gets on with life.

If you work with a pessimist, encourage that person and diplomatically and respectfully counter that person’s comments with facts to the contrary. And add a compliment, if applicable.

Pessimists can change their perspectives. Be optimistic about that!

August 4, 2016


Owning certain words that end in “ing.”

My writing this tip and your wanting to learn it exemplify how our searching for growth continues. Notice I didn’t say: I (or me) writing, you wanting, and you and I searching.

Those words ending in “ing” are gerunds. They are derived from verbs and function as nouns. If they are nouns, they can be owned. (Joe’s car, Joe’s driving, Ella’s thought, Ella’s thinking, John’s boat, John’s boating.)

Here is the difference between the noun and the verb:

  • We are laughing (verb).
  • Laughing (Gerund) is fun.
  • Jill’s laughing is loud. (Who owns that laugh?)

I encourage your implementing this.

July 11, 2016


When do we capitalize the words team, mom, dad, boss, president, friend, sister, pastor, father, etc?


  • When they are used INSTEAD of names. (They become the name.)
  • Examples:
    • Tell Dad to call Sister.
    • Good morning, Team.
    • Right way, Boss!
    • Pick up Giraffe and put him in the toy box.

We do not capitalize when they are used as a general title. (Example: Tell my mom to call her boss.  I told the boss I’d do it right way. Pick up the giraffe and put him in the toy box.)

Usually, I see people not capitalizing when they need to. I believe it’s because many of us have forgotten this rule along the way.

Go for it, Friend!

June 22, 2016


This is, arguably, one of the most important tips of them all.

What did I just say? By using arguably, I either said “questionably,” or “this is susceptible to argument,” or this statement “is very possibly true even if it is not certainly true.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Is that what we strive to say when we use this word?

(“Arguably” also is an embedded suggestion to argue.)

When I hear people use it, most of the time, they either insert it as a verbal pause/filler word or they mean to say “without a doubt.”

Either way, they are misusing it, which is, arguably, a faux pas!

November 16, 2015


If you’re making arrangements to give a speech, you will appreciate knowing the difference between these two words:

  • If you request a podium, you will get a raised platform.
  • If you request a lectern, you will get an elevated desk for your notes or laptop.

Podium comes from pod—foot. It’s a place upon which we stand. (Think podiatrist or tripod.)

Lectern come from lect—to read. (Think lecture.)

Oh, and request a lavalier or headset mic. You don’t want to be holding a microphone the whole time or constrained by the lectern’s mic.

And enjoy the experience!

November 9, 2015


Will he or won’t he? Sabotaging our first impression:

I held my breath after the new assistant pastor enthusiastically began his talk with “Good morning” and received a much quieter response.

This is where so many speakers insult their audiences by saying something like, “Now you can do better than that!” And then they repeat, “Good morning.”

Not this young man. Without hesitating, he kept smiling and began his message. He even complimented the audience within the first couple of minutes.

My advice: Strive to connect and not to alienate.

October 5, 2015


Your input, please: 80% of people are hired for their competencies whereas 85% are terminated because of their lack of leadership or people skills. This according to training development specialist Shirley Fine Lee.

In my consultations and workshops, I focus on positive, confident communicating as well as other people skills such as listening, smiling, being tactful and encouraging, etc.

What people skills are important to you? (This could save jobs!)

Thank you, in advance, for your input.

August 24, 2015


“I says.” Who says this?!

You would be surprised how “I says” is insidiously inserting itself into the phrases that introduce dialogue.

Even though the conversation may have occurred last week, the person recounting it talks as if it is ongoing—in the present tense.

So, instead of saying “John said” the person says “John says.”
And here is the stunning next step: If that person had a role in that conversation, s/he just might say,” I says.”

“John says… and then I says… and then Alex says….”

These may be the same people who also say, “John was like… and then I go…and then Mary went….”

Please, just say “said.”

July 22, 2015


Which vs. That.
Use “which” to describe nonessential information—set apart by commas.

  • The phone, which Dan never liked, fell into the hot soup.
  • The XYZ Project, which took months to complete, won an award.

Use “that” to describe essential information.

  • Dan scooped out the phone that fell into the hot soup.
  • The project that won the award took months to complete.

Use “who” for people:

  • The CEO who endorsed the project retired.
April 27, 2015

Communication Tip #88

90% of emails are skimmed. To ensure most or all of your email is read, I recommend you use bullet points when you need to make several points.

Bullet points:

  • Require fewer words
  • Create more white space
  • Distinguish each thought
  • Summarize your message visually

Grammar tip: The first word of each bullet point needs to belong to the SAME word group. (These are all verbs. You can also begin with nouns, adverbs, etc.)

Using bullet points will make your email:

  • Succinct
  • Clear
  • Readable
March 30, 2015

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