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 #57

“I would have went to the meeting.”

Most of us cringe when we read this, but some do not. (“I would have GONE to the meeting.”)

Some of us–because of lapses in our education, attention in school, or associations afterwards, routinely write or punctuate incorrectly–and we don’t know it.

For that reason, ask someone to proofread your emails for a while. You will become aware of your chronic mistakes and stop making them.

Regardless of your expertise, when composing important emails or documents, have at least one other person read them before you send or publish them.

(My husband read this before I posted it.)

July 29, 2013

Communication Tip #56

Capitalize the first word of every sentence. Also capitalize titles that precede a person’s name. (The bank’s Vice President John Jackson spoke. .bank, the person’s name, and the names of organizations and businesses, which are

The first word of every sentence is capitalized. Proper nouns are always capitalized

Please capitalize your business’ name. It is a proper noun. Proper nouns name particular (specific one-of-a-kind) persons, places and things.

Some businesses and organizations are now designing logos with their names written in all small letters. They are doing it for artsy reasons and possibly to identify with and acquiesce to younger people who choose not to make the effort to capitalize when texting.

In my opinion, that relegates those businesses and organizations to the category of common nouns–the opposite of proper nouns. To me, they come across as cute, faddish, acquiescent, and obviously ignorant of basic English rules. They do not project an image of being strong, capable, and proud of their name.

June 24, 2013

Communication Tip #55

Leave conversations having left great last impressions.

End conversations the way you began:

  • Smile.
  • Give warm, firm handshakes.
  • Use the names of the people to whom you were speaking
  • Tell them how much you:
    • o appreciate meeting them.
    • o value them.
    • o learned about the topics you discussed.

This, from Mike Bechtle’s book Confident Conversations.

June 13, 2013

Communication Tip #54

Last week I had the privilege of giving the commencement address to the students, their families and the staff of National College. I gave them tips for which those who attend my workshops are grateful.

The #1 tip is to smile.

Smiling communicates confidence. It is contagious. It attracts people to you and makes them feel positive– about you, what you say, and themselves: the receivers of what you say. How positive? A smile causes the release of the same amount of endorphins–chemicals that make us feel good–as eating 20,000 chocolate candy bars or receiving the equivalent of nearly $25,000 in cash. That, according to Katerina Nikolas, author of “How Smiling Affects Your Health.”

So, make a positive, confident difference in yourself and the reaction to your products or services: Smile.

May 28, 2013

Communication Tip #53

Here are three words that appear to be better off without their confusing prefixes: unloosen, unthaw, and invaluable. (Yes, unloosen and unthaw are actually in the dictionary! I discovered that today.)

Unloosen means to loosen, unthaw means to thaw and invaluable means valuable–albeit, a notch above valuable, which further complicates this.

What other words come to your mind that, when etymologically broken down, make no sense?

April 22, 2013

Communication Tip #52

Do you want to get your message across and have people glued to your every word? Paraphrase what they say.

They will be laser focused because it is “their” messages, and they want to make sure you paraphrase correctly.  Here’s the other advantage: you have the opportunity to seamlessly interject suggestions. After listening to your paraphrase + inserted suggested, this might be a response:  “I said angry? I meant disappointed. And, on second thought, ‘butthead’ sounds inappropriate. And you may have a point: what I say and do next could affect everyone in the office.”

April 14, 2013

Communication Tip #51

Good morning, Stupid.

Now that I have elicited your attention (and your ire), convince me that words account for only 7% of communication.

In writing, they obviously account for more, even if you resort to adding emoticons :)

How about speaking? If someone says, “Good morning, Stupid” in an affectionate embrace using a tender tone of voice, those loving non-verbals still could not overpower the effect of the innately insulting “Stupid.” We could not dismiss “Stupid” as being a measly 7% of an otherwise affirming communication.

Although tone of voice and body language are crucial, words are more important than we are lead to believe.

We need to choose our words carefully and not depend on non-verbals and emoticons to be our main transmitters.  Comments?

April 8, 2013

Communication Tip #50

We all encounter this embarrassing situation: not being able to recall people’s names.

Here is a solution that works nearly every time: While shaking their hands, say your first and last name. They usually say theirs. If they don’t, I suggest saying, “Remind me of your name.”

I then make a point to say their names several times to let them know I value them and that the next time, I will, indeed, remember.

What works for you?

April 1, 2013

Communication Tip #49

Before approaching others to network, define who you are or who you want to be (bold, engaged, creative, etc.). Become that person not only with prospects but also with your co-workers, spouse, children, and neighbors. That’s congruity, and according to THE CHARGE author Brenden Burchard who devised this exercise, when our actions are congruent, we feel more grounded, responsible and certain.

I define the results as integrity.

We’ll explore congruency and much more at Networking 201 at the Fort Wayne Chamber’s Lunch and Learn this Wednesday. Hope to see you there!

March 18, 2013

Communication Tip #48

You are at a networking event and want to end a conversation and talk to someone else. Here is a professional and positive way do that: “I enjoyed catching up with you / meeting you and especially appreciate learning about______. I look forward to connecting with you again.”

Summarizing a point the other person made not only honors that person, it shows you were laser focused and found what the person said valuable.

This is one of several advanced networking tips I’ll be sharing at “Networking 201″ on March 20th. The Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce’s Lunch and Learn begins at 11:30 and lunch is provided. Contact the Chamber for reservations.

If you are in the area, I’d love to see you there! 

March 11, 2013

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