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


These words don’t need our help: Switch, swap, report, and revert. They (and many others) contain their whole meanings. So, to follow them with words such as UP, OUT, and BACK render them redundant and confusing.

For example:

Many people are now saying swap OUT. “Swap” means to exchange, substitute, or replace one thing for another. The definition includes the concept of taking something out and putting something else in. So, if we say swap OUT, we are saying take something out and put something in OUT. What?!

Switch and swap have similar meanings. So, the same convoluted communication occurs with switch OUT and switch UP. Just say switch. And how about separate OUT? Please just say separate.

Because I was a reporter, I’m including report BACK. “Port” means to carry and “re” means back. So, when we say report back, we’re saying carry information back BACK. (The same applies to revert BACK–to turn back BACK. Just say revert.

I could list (not list out!) a myriad of examples.

What other superfluous combinations come to mind


February 6, 2018



When someone starts a comment with “I don’t mean to be critical…”, What do we do? We brace ourselves to be criticized.

These introductory comments are called verbal disclaimers. They are called “disclaimers” for the benefit of the persons saying them—to underscore that if we choose to disregard the disclaimers, which absolves the speakers, it’s our problem.

These foreboding spoiler alerts are seemingly said out of sincere concern for others. The disclaimers’ messages hit us deeper than we realize: Our subconscious minds struggle with processing the words “no” and “not.” So, we actually hear, “I mean to be critical.”

Here are some other verbal disclaimers:

  • Don’t take this personally…
  • I mean no disrespect…
  • I don’t mean to be rude…
  • I’m not saying you’re acting inappropriately…
  • I don’t mean to interrupt…

The remedy? Drop the disclaimer, think before you speak, and communicate respectfully.

What other verbal disclaimers immediately warn us to be on guard?


January 29, 2018



You’re about to initiate or be involved in a video meeting. In addition to your words, content, and demeanor, how you, literally, set the stage is crucial.

In last week’s tip, I covered how to frame yourself in the shot, light your face, look at the camera’s lens, and place the lens at eye-level by elevating your computer or tablet.

This week, we’re zeroing in on your background:

  • Make sure no plants, lamps, or poles “grow out of your head.” Either move the items a little or change the angle of your computer.
  • Get rid of those cardboard boxes that are on the floor in the distance. We see them. And we see any other mess or clutter behind you.
  • Look at what’s displayed on your walls and bookshelves. Is it distracting? Is it inconsistent with your branding / what you want to convey?
  • Dim bright lights behind you and close the blinds/curtains if it’s daylight unless you want to be seen in silhouette
  • If you’re in front of a plain wall, sit/stand at least a couple of feet away from it unless you’re striving for the mug-shot effect.

Oh, and I should have put this in last week’s tip: get closer to the camera lens. You want a tighter shot. Video is a personal medium and we want you near us during this conversation and not, seemingly, across the room.

Video conferencing is a learning experience: What else have you seen or experienced you can share with us?


January 16, 2018



How to come across as credible and professional when video conferencing—tips gleaned from my many years in broadcasting.

  • Frame your face so your eyes are in the upper third of the screen. If done correctly, the closer you are to the screen, the less headroom you will have. Why do this? If your eyes are in the middle of the screenshot or below, your viewers will subconsciously perceive you—and your message—as less important and credible.
  • Look straight into the lens. Arrange your computer or mobile device so that lens is at eye level—and look at that lens. Usually, this means elevating your computer quite a bit. Viewers don’t want to see us looking down the whole time…and they don’t want to see our ceilings.
  • Avoid light backgrounds—windows, light walls, bright lamps, if outside–white cloudy skies. Cameras automatically adjust for bright light and the result is everything else darkens—including our faces. So, choose a darker background and you’ll be amazed at how visible you’ll become! Darker complexioned people need to be especially aware of this. 
  • In addition, sit or stand where light—artificial or natural–illuminates your face.

Next week, we’ll focus more on what’s behind us as we set the stage for our professional video conferencing shots.

Contact me to learn more or if you would like me to teach this. (I always include video conferencing set-up when Skyping with my individual communication skills clients.)


January 8, 2018




Have you sat through a presentation wondering who is the person speaking, why was that person chosen, what’s the message, and why should I care?

I have.

That information needs to be clearly stated in the introduction.
When I present, I write an introduction, email it beforehand, and take a copy with me—written in a large font so the person introducing me can easily read it.

An introduction is not a bio. It needs to be short and engaging as well as informative.

When writing your introduction, think SIN—David Greenberg uses that acronym in his book Simply Speaking!
• S: Subject / title of the presentation
• I: Importance: Why the subject is important to the audience and why you are important to the topic (credibility)
• N: Your name.

I tell my clients to even write the last line. Say something like “Let’s welcome…” That way, the person introducing won’t resort to the cliché “Without further ado” which means “without further messing around/confusion,” which, ironically, disparages both the topic and the presenter!


December 10, 2017



Give the gift of increased daily vocabulary.
If you or someone you know relies on the words “awesome” or “cool,” or if you want to place 100+ words at your fingertips, these mugs are for you!

For 8 years, I’ve shared alternatives for these words on my Verbal Edge business cards and website. These mugs take this vocabulary-building concept an exciting and convenient step further.

Check out this website to view the selections and the number of words on each.
Shipping is free. 

I feel as though this is my gift to you. ENJOY!


December 10, 2017



Here’s a challenge: When giving corrective feedback, make it totally positive and engage the other person.

For example:

  • “What do you think went well during your presentation? What do you think you could have done even better?… Let’s talk about making that happen!”
  • “I know you will appreciate this observation: When you talk with clients, instead of ending your phrases and statements with upward inflections (up-talking), how about if you speak with downward inflections? That way, you will sound more confident as you continue to look and be confident.” What do you think about that?

Using positive corrective engaging feedback involves time-consuming, intentional composing—especially the first few times.

I recommend it. The results are win/win: Your employees correct the situations AND they feel valued, encouraged, and empowered.


December 4, 2017



“By changing your habitual vocabulary…you can instantaneously change how you think, how you feel, and how you live.” That is from Tony Robbin’s book, Change Your Words, Change Your Life.

Quick! Think of another word for “awesome” or “cool”!

One way to effectively achieve this is to have options at your fingertips. How about if alternative words are displayed on the mug on your desk?

Yes, in my quest to expand the everyday vocabulary of professionals, we’ve created mugs that contain 100 or more alternatives for “awesome” and for “cool.”

You will benefit from this convenient way to access the right word, and others will too: The mugs are perfect gifts for clients, colleagues, friends, teachers, and family members. Get one of each.

The mugs come in two designs:

  • Word Cloud—whimsical vocabulary building (black mugs)
  • Awesome Alternatives (100 words)
  • Cool Alternatives (113 words)
  • Alphabetical—serious vocabulary building (white or black mugs)
  • Awesome Alternatives (148 words)
  • Cool Alternatives (172 words)

To see the selections and purchase one or more mugs, visit my website.

I’m excited for what this vocabulary resource will do for you as you “drink in” more effective alternatives for describing people, places, and concepts. Here’s to your continued success!


November 27, 2017



“This is not a subject with which I am not familiar.” I heard someone say that last month. Think quickly: What did that person mean?   (Translation: “I’m familiar with this subject.”)

See how confusing, obfuscating, and unproductive negative words inserted into phrases/sentences can be!

  • The clarity solution: avoid as many negative words as possible.
  • Ready for some examples? Here goes:
  • They will stop at nothing to do that.  (They will persevere / keep at it, etc.…)
  • He mentioned it no less than 10 times. (He mentioned it at least…)
  • They did not lack for opportunity. (They had plenty of opportunities to…)
  • Don’t arrive after 3:00. (Arrive by 3:00.)
  • We can’t agree. (We see things differently.)
  • Why don’t I stop by and pick it up? (How about if I stop by…)
  • I’ll see if I can’t do that for you. (Literal meaning: “I try not to be able to do that!) (Intended meaning: “I’ll see if I CAN do that…)
  • Not to mention… (We all know how this ends: It’s mentioned!)


I have many more examples, which I share in my workshops. If you want to speak more positively, confidently, and clearly or want that for your staff or team, contact me. I will tailor consultations or workshops for you that are fast-paced, fun, and full of career-enhancing skills. Contact me at Elizabeth@theVerbalEdge.com or (887) 228-0096.


November 8, 2017 



“It will not take a minute for you to read this.” So, how long will it take?

Add one more word and the sentence gets even more confusing: “It will not take but a minute…”

For succinctness and clarity, use positive construction and active voice (subject / verb / object) whenever possible.

Example. “You will read this in less than a minute.” (and love it, I’m sure!)

More next week on the advantages of using positive construction. “You’ll want to read it.”  vs  “You don’t want to miss it.”


October 30, 2017 



The Power of WORDS: The following is SUCCESS magazine’s adaptation ofThe Jim Rohn Guide to Communication.”

“People judge you by the words you use…Choose your words wisely…When you speak, use your words carefully.

  • Avoid using words that will cause the other person to think poorly of you. Slang is one example. Another is, of course, slurs of any type. Use words that communicate positive values. Use optimistic words, words of strength. Make sure they are understandable.
  • Use words that are colorful and rich with meaning, as long as they can be understood by the listener.

An expanded vocabulary will set you apart. It enhances the communication process and draws others in.

Your vocabulary can reveal to others how educated you are, and others may make judgments about you that can affect your opportunities with them. The best communicators will use an expanded vocabulary with more educated groups and a more basic vocabulary with less-educated groups.”


Thank you, Jim Rohn and SUCCESS magazine, for championing the importance of words and exemplifying their impact.


October 24, 2017 



Question marks? Periods. Exclamation points! Do they go inside or outside the quotation marks?


In the U.S., periods and commas go inside the quotation marks:

  • Alex said, “Yes, I will exercise the night away.”

In the U.K., periods and commas go outside the quotation marks:

  • Alex said, “Yes, I will exercise the night away”.

Back to the U.S.: Question marks and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks if the quoted words comprise only a part of the question:

  • Did Alex just say he’s going to “exercise the night away”?

Single quotation marks: We use them when we have a quote within a quote:

  • Sam said, “Emma was surprised Alex said he ‘will exercise the night away.”’

My response to Alex: “Good luck finding party-goers willing to do that!”


October 10, 2017



Let’s own our gerunds!  (Stay with me!)


“Your smiling is contagious.” In this sentence, we treat “smiling” as a noun. That’s because it’s a gerund, which is an “ing” form of a verb that functions as a noun.


Nouns can have modifiers—adjectives: In this case the adjective is possessive: “your.” (Whose smiling?) We could have used other possessive adjectives such as my, his, her, its, our, their, and whose.)


Why am I making this such a big deal? Because many people use pronouns (me, you, him us, them) instead.

  • Here is the correct and incorrect way to own your gerunds:
  • My jogging up the stairs inspired her.  Not: Me jogging…
  • His snoring all night keeps me awake. Not: Him snoring…
  • Our working overtime clinched it.  Not: Us working…
  • Their refusing to listen frustrated the boss.  Not: Them refusing…
  • Your reading this reinforces the concept.  Not: you reading…


One more reinforcement: You wouldn’t say, “Me presenting needs work. You would say “My presenting needs work.”  Now, enlarge that thought to include all gerunds and gerund phrases: “My presenting to small and large groups needs work.”


September 27, 2017


“The only thing worse than saying nothing is spending a long time saying it.” (Toastmasters Magazine)


Preparation for speeches, networking, sales presentations, and interviewing is key–even if you have only seconds to prepare.


I watched as a TV host interviewed a professional couple. The woman spoke first: Her words and delivery communicated confidence. The next question went to the man. His first words were, “Um, I guess, you know…I mean…kinda…”  (The was familiar with the topic.)


If the man had eliminated the verbal clutter at the beginning of his sentence, he would have immediately engaged the listeners. Instead, he rambled, tuned out his listeners, sabotaged his message and credibility, and communicated insecurity.

What a difference some quick mental editing would have made!


September 18, 2017



Common usage doesn’t always make common sense.
Here are three words whose prefixes are unnecessary and irrational (Keep in mind the prefixes “un” and “ir” mean “not.”):

  •  unthaw
  •  unloosen
  • irregardless (Cringe. Yes, it has made it into the dictionary as nonstandard usage for regardless)

These words do not mean:

  • unthaw — freeze
  • unloosen – tighten
  • irregardless – showing regard or concern for

Regardless means without regard, in spite of. Irregardless (not regardless) means the opposite.
Regardless of how many readers now know to avoid using these words, I feel anxious even typing the word irregardless, which my computer dutifully underlined with a squiggly red line each time—and, in case you’re wondering, no, I’m not going to “add it to my dictionary!”


September 12, 2017



Can our attire and demeanor pass the test?

A few years ago, a young man I was mentoring had an interview at a temp agency for a factory job. I encouraged him to wear a pressed long-sleeved shirt, his black pants, black belt, and black shoes.

Beforehand, we practiced the initial introduction: smiling, making eye contact, extending his hand for a firm handshake, and using the other person’s name.

He did well during the interview, but he failed the drug test.

However, because of his appearance and the way he handled himself, the agency decided to retest him.

The second time, he passed. (The first drug test had shown a FALSE positive.)

This young man learned, firsthand, the power of a positive first impression!


August 28, 2017



Do you need a reason to increase your daily vocabulary?


Anthony Robbins, in the article CHANGE YOUR WORDS, CHANGE YOUR LIFE, says, “According to Compton’s Encyclopedia, the English language contains some 500,000 words. Yet the average person’s working vocabulary consists of 2,000 words: 0.5% of the entire language. And the number of words we use most frequently—the words that make up our habitual vocabulary…averages 200-300 words.”


I recommend this method to increase daily vocabulary usage:

  • When you hear or read words you haven’t used for a while, write them in your mobile device or journal. I title my list “Vocabulary.”
  • Choose five of those words and use them throughout the week.
  • To reinforce your using them, rehearse. Say or write sentences containing the words before you debut them.
  • Each week, choose five more words.


If we make this a concerted project, the percentage of words we use daily will skyrocket!


August 21, 2017




Solving the mind-paralyzing hyphenating conundrum.

We hyphenate two or more words that act as a single idea to describe a noun they precede.

Because they do the work of one adjective, they are called, appropriately, compound adjectives.


This seldom-pondered rule is often ignored because it is not perceived as a hard-fast one.

Here’s the confusing exception: Following that noun, the adjectives are not hyphenated! So, the conundrum is mind paralyzing and the often-ignored rule is seldom pondered and not perceived to be hard fast.


To summarize:

These words are hyphenated:

  • The seven-toed dog won the animal-lovers’ competition.
  • The follow-up email needs to be succinct.

These words are not hyphenated:

  • The dog with seven toes won the competition attended by animal lovers.
  • The email you send to follow up needs to be succinct.
  • When you follow up, do it succinctly.

Oh, and these words are always hyphenated:

  • The 3-year old reads Shakespeare plays. (ages)
  • The man shows self-control. (self)


Happy always-confident hyphenating!


August 14, 2017



More ways to retrieve names that escape us:


You’re at an event and you see people you think you’ve met before. If you’re with your spouse or someone who also knows these people, use this game plan:


Beforehand, agree to casually mention the first and last names of people you encounter. For example, your companion can say “You remember Dave and Sally Harris.” To which you can happily say, “sure!”  That’s because you did remember them–just not their names. Your companion can also add how you know these people. (Extra points!)


Here’s another tactic—recommended by Heather McMichael, a friend and former TV broadcasting colleague of mine. She says, “If I’m with my husband and I recognize a face but not a name I will introduce my [husband] and then the other person will always say their name.”


I’ve almost always had success with that too. However, I’ve also encountered people who just say, “Hello.” So, I then resort to my favorite, simple request: “Remind me of your name.”


July 31, 2017



We all encounter this embarrassing situation: We recognize people but are unable to recall their names.


Here is a solution that works nearly every time. While shaking their hands, say, “Good to see you. To remind you, I’m …” and then say your first and last name. Usually, they will reciprocate with their names.


I use this technique frequently. And people I’ve met have mercifully introduced themselves again for me. Sometimes I had remembered their names and told them so. Other times, I thanked them for reminding me. Every time, I’ve been impressed with their intuitiveness and relationship skills.


If people don’t say their names when you’re mentioning your name, then smile and casually say, “Remind me of your name.” (And then incorporate it into your conversation a few times.) “Remind me of your name” is quick, easy, and almost unnoticeable.


And it’s more professional and less traumatic than making a big deal out of forgetting their names and launching into how embarrassed you are. Or worse: proclaiming you’re not good at remembering names, which is an excuse and automatically puts the other people into the category of “not worth remembering.”


Pretend you have a teenage daughter and you’re meeting her new boyfriend. You would not only remember his name, you would google it as soon as he left!


July 24, 2017



In business, a positive first impression is essential.

Here is how you pull it off: You are at a restaurant and you’re meeting a new client for the first time. The client walks toward your table and you:

  • Smile
  • Stand (This applies to women also. Business is gender neutral.)
  • Begin and maintain eye contact
  • Greet the person by name.
  • Confidently introduce yourself, if the person does not know you.
  • Firmly shake the person’s hand—web to web. (That’s a Karen Hickman term, and I like it. It means you move your hand all the way into the other person’s hand until the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger touches their webbing.)

(Karen is an etiquette consultant. Her company is Professional Courtesy.)

July 10, 2017



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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