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


Communication Tip #77

Use the words “less, much, and amount’ if the next word is un-countable. If you can count the word, use “fewer, many, and number.”

For example, use “less, much and amount” if you’re talking about money, clothing, fog, fun, boating, and traffic. Use “fewer, many, and number” if you say dollars, clothes, clouds, games, boats, and cars.

I put much effort into creating many more examples; however, I am limited to a certain number of characters. Even though fewer words and less teaching reduced the amount of information I could impart, please increase the number of examples on your own.

September 29, 2014

Communication Tip #76

Is this correct or incorrect usage? Chris had us literally cracking up.” “That sunset literally blew my mind.” “She was literally a limp dish rag after that run.”

(All three are incorrect.)

Literally means actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy. So, eliminate the word literally and use it only to emphasize the truth—especially if that truth is usually conveyed as a cliché:

For example:

  • “When John finished planting the moss, he literally had what he always wanted: a green thumb.”

“The miniature house in the museum was literally made of money.

September 1, 2014

Communication Tip #75

“Really” does not mean “very.” They are not synonyms. “Really” means actually, truly or indeed. If you say, “The movie was really good.” You are saying, “The movie was actually good.”

Now…back to the word “very.” I recommend my clients not use it. “Very” allows the speaker/writer to mentally coast by selecting a favorite stand-by adjective and bolstering it with “very.”

The movie was more than very good. It might have been intriguing, or spell-binding, cathartic, suspenseful, mesmerizing, life-changing, etc.

Listeners/readers will appreciate the effort and results of this more precise communication.

They really will.

August 25, 2014

Communication Tip #74

“People never become defensive about what you’re saying. They become defensive because of why they think you’re saying it.”  Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations, shared that with thousands of us who attended the Global Leadership Summit last week.

When embarking on those crucial conversations, think about your desired outcome. Grenny said to show mutual respect and to start with defining your mutual purpose—to help the person know you care about his/her interest, problems, and concerns.

I’ll add: Think about how your comments MIGHT come across and adjust your words, tone of voice, and expression so they align with how you WANT your message to be received.

Often, after I’ve established mutual respect, I use the phrase, “Are you aware…?” It’s non-threatening because you are asking about their awareness. However, the other person also receives the intended message.

August 19, 2014

Communication Tip #73

Do you Skype as part of your career?

Here’s how to visually show professionalism, confidence, and credibility:

  • Frame your face so your eyes are in the upper third of the screen. That means very little—if any—“head room.”
  • Avoid light backgrounds—white skies, windows, bright lamps, white walls—anything that forces the iris in the camera to close down and consequently makes you look darker and harder to see.
  • Sit or stand where light (artificial or natural) shows your face.
  • Set up at least a couple of feet away from your background—this is not a mug shot.
  • Make sure nothing grows out of your head or ears: you may have to move the plants and lamps behind you.

There. That’s TV News / videography 101.
Contact me to learn more—and to become proficient. I’d love to work with you.

August 5, 2014

Communication Tip #72

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 in the introduction.

When I present, I always write an introduction, email it beforehand, and take a copy with me-written in large font so the person introducing me can easily read it.

An introduction is not a bio. It needs to be short, engaging, and 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 (credentials)
  • N: Your name.

I tell my clients to even write the transition. Say something like “Let’s welcome…”  That way, the person introducing won’t resort to the cliché “Without further ado” which could be translated as without wasting more time. (So much for that professional introduction!)

July 21, 2014

Communication Tip #71

When in doubt, leave the other word out.

That’s my mantra when teaching individual clients and workshop attendees whether to use “I, she, he” (subject pronouns) or “me, her, him” (object pronouns).


  • “John and me went to the meeting.” (Test it: Leave out John: “Me went to the meeting.”) Correct: “John and I went to the meeting.”
  • “This is the email her and I sent.” (Test it: “This is the email her sent.”) Correct: “This is the email she and I sent.”
  • “The VPs praised Chris and I.” (Test it: “The VPs praised I.”) Correct: “The VPs praised Chris and me.”

Another clue: You never use the pronouns “him” or “her” with “I”.  And you never use “she” or “he” with “me.”

  • “Him and me completed the project.” (Test it: “Him completed the project. Me completed the project.”) Correct: “He and I completed the project.”
July 7, 2014

Communication Tip #70

Are you communicating precisely? Or are you using ambiguous words open to your listener’s interpretation?

While doing a workshop in the Tampa Bay Area, I asked participants to rank the word “awesome” on a 5-point scale. Awesome describes anything that is jaw-dropping—that elicits awe. It could be something magnificent or horrendous.

And it is indisputably a 5 on the 5-point scale. I thought.

However, one of the groups at the workshop ranked the word as a 2. Those participants were in their 20s and they said it means “so so.”
They admitted they had never looked up the definition.

For years, they have heard people use it as a knee-jerk adjective for many things (awesome pencil).

If you want to ACCURATELY convey your thoughts, work harder at choosing the precise words—and then ask your listeners what they HEARD you say.

June 30, 2014

Communication Tip #69

You will appreciate this!

That phrase is invaluable. When you use it, you tell other people how they are going to feel and you compliment them on their ability to be discerning, to learn from, and to appreciate what you are about to tell them.

If what follows is corrective feedback, you have communicated respect for them and the belief they will, indeed, appreciate the correction instead of feeling guilty or ashamed.

Which would you rather hear: “This might upset you…”  or  “You’re going to appreciate this…”

Remember: You are telling people how to feel and how you feel about them. Use that influence wisely. You and your team will appreciate it.  

May 19, 2014

Communication Tip #68

Solving the pronoun conundrum:

The phone rings. You answer. The caller asks for Jane. (Pretend you’re Jane). You correctly say, “This is SHE. The caller wants an update on your project. You correctly say, “Joe and I are working with Jen and Marcus.  HE and I work well with HER and HIM.”


  • Even though it sounds strange, use: I, SHE, HE, WE and THEY after linking verbs (am, is, was, were, seem, appear) because they continue to define the subject.

Here is an example of using all WRONG personal pronouns:

  • “This is ME. HIM and John will give the card to Chris and I.” 

(Between you and me, now you have something to think about all day!)

March 24, 2014

Page 3 of 1012345...10...Last »