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 #67

The lie / lay conundrum. Many Intelligent business leaders are foggy on this:

  • If you / another person / an animal reclines, the word is lie. (I love to lie in bed and read. The cat prefers to lie next to her kittens.)
  • If you / another person / an animal positions something or someone, the word is lay. (Lay the baby in the crib. He will lay the book next to the baby.)

Stay with me: Here are the other tenses:

  • lie / lay / lain.  (I lie on the beach. I lay on the beach all last week. I have lain so long I am sunburned.)

Now, for the easy part:

  • lay / laid /laid: (Lay the proposal on the desk. I laid it on the desk. I have laid it on the desk.)
February 24, 2014

Communication Tip #66

Ubiquitous negative or knee-jerk responses to “thank you” warrant another reminder for all of us.

When responding to “Thank you,” please SMILE and say something positive such as:

“My pleasure.” “Glad to do it.” “Any time.”

Think content. Don’t just respond:  Two days ago, a TV meteorologist responded to “Thank you” with “You bet.”  What does that mean?

Refrain from saying, “Yup.”  “Uh huh.”

Avoid “No problem.” (You’re saying it could be a problem, but you’ve decided, in this case, it isn’t.)

A positive, intentional response to “thank you” communicates you are a positive, intentional person.

January 13, 2014

Communication Tip #65

Here’s a challenge: When giving corrective feedback, make it totally positive.

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.” 

Using positive corrective 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 2, 2013

Communication Tip #64

In my quest to share misleading or confusing negative phrases, here are the most recent ones I’ve heard:

Enjoy—and in no uncertain circumstances, refrain from using.

This takes not one minute to read. It is not unlike what you might do for no other reason than to smile.

Most thoughts are more easily understood if phrased in the positive–I know you couldn’t agree more!

We are nothing if we are not conscientious. (What I don’t do for you!)

November 18, 2013

Communication Tip #63

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

Add one 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!)

October 31, 2013

Communication Tip #62

Are you ready for a grammar challenge of which many people are aware?

Find the incorrect word in this sentence: You coming in early last night meant we could leave early too.

The compound subject is “coming in early” and it belongs to “you.” So, “you” needs to be possessive: “Your” coming in early…  More examples: “My” laughing is loud. “My” laughing with friends is even louder.” (Not “me” laughing with other people…)

Now, share this rule with your team members. Their wanting to learn it will surprise you.

October 15, 2013

Communication Tip #60

When you send an email to a client from your smart phone (and the transmission, at the bottom, indicates you did), do you get a pass on grammar and punctuation?


Except for tweeting, regardless of how you transmit your message, professionals uphold business standards. What may save the sender 30 seconds often erodes that sender’s image.

That’s one of hundreds of tips you’ll receive if you attend Equipping Exceptional Leaders on 9-27-13.  See the information on this website’s Events Page for more information.

September 16, 2013

Communication Tip #59

Preparation is key–even if you have only seconds to prepare.

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

This morning, 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…kinda…”  (The topic was one with which they were both familiar–no surprises.)

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

What a difference some quick mental editing would have made!

September 9, 2013

Communication Tip #61

When tactfully confronting a negative situation, lead with facts instead of opinions or emotions. According to the authors of Crucial Conversations, facts are the least controversial, the least insulting, and the most persuasive.

So, instead of saying, “Because you couldn’t get your butt out of bed this morning, the project we worked on blew up in our faces!” State the facts: “We were to present our proposal at 8:00. You arrived at 8:25. At 8:10, XYZ Corporation awarded the account to ONTime, Inc.”

(This was one of several topics I covered in EQUIPPING EXCEPTIONAL LEADERS, a seminar Karen Hickman, Joe Wolfcale and I presented last week.)

September 6, 2013

Communication Tip #58

The power of questions:

“It’s not only the questions you ask but the questions you fail to ask that shape your destiny.” That catalytic statement is from Tony Robbins.

In business, the focus is on relationship selling. According to Brian Tracey, much of that is listening, paraphrasing and asking questions such as, “Are you saying…?” or “If this makes sense to you, why don’t you give it a try?” or his favorite: “How do you mean?”

For me, questions define and enrich my life and career; They always have!  What are some of your favorite questions?

August 5, 2013

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