The Right Words

I was a guest on BlogTalkRadio yesterday talking about the words we use, how we use them, to what benefit our language has on others – written and spoken – and our vocabulary.  It’s fascinating to me to talk to PhD’s, C-Level people, educated adults and highly-regarded individuals who use incorrect English. It’s not that these people don’t know the difference.  What is it then? 

Is it carelessness?  Is it neglect?  Is it attitude?  Is it that they or you learned and have forgotten? Is it habit? I believe that some of you have been writing or saying it wrong for so long it’s now right to you.  No one has taken the time, nor the care, to help you improve.  I take classes two or three times a year to brush up, and I teach them also.  I need and appreciate a refresher, and I recommend one for you too.

How often do you hear the wrong tense in a sentence?  “She don’t have ….”  The correct tense is:  “She doesn’t have….”   How often do you hear someone ending a sentence with “at”?  “Where’s the file at?”  Delete this from your vocabulary.  The proper question:  “Where’s the file?”  I hear three or four language faults a day.  It’s sad.  You may say, “who cares?”  I care.  Others care too.  It’s a simple request:  speak and write correctly. 

Watch for subject/pronoun agreement too.  “Each child needs their flu shot.”  This is wrong.  It’s, “Each child needs his/her flu shot.”  Subject:  Each – singular.  Pronoun:  Their – plural.  To get your point across, write, “All children need their flu shots.”  Another gremlin:  Subject/verb agreement. Each of the children is protected. Each – singular; is – singular.  Not:  Each…are!

Do you ever stop to questionits or it’s?  Alot or a lot?  Then or than? Your or you’re?  Me, myself or I? Who’s or whose?   You’re not the only one.  I see these mistakes too often.  When you question your knowledge, look it up, don’t just “fake it.”  The way you speak and the way you write say resumes about you, believe me.

Its – possessive.  It’s – contraction for it is, or it has.  “It’s been a rough day, and the department had its troubles.”

Alot – is not a word.  Always use two words:  a lot.  “You will get in a lot of trouble if you use alot.”

Then adverb – show time.  Than– conjunction -to compare.  “Tom takes more time than Will to finish projects.  Will works hard and then takes time to play.

Your – possessive.  You’re – contraction – you are.  “When you’re finished your project, you can relax.”  This is one I see misused the most often.

Me – Objective pronoun.  Myself – reflexive pronoun.  I – subjective pronoun.  “For more information, please contact Roberta, Sam or me.”  “I taught myself to play the piano.”  “Jessie and I went to Cleveland.”  “Jessie went with Clara and me to Cleveland.”  Please, please use “me,” instead of “myself” when you use the objective case:  See the first example.  It’s “…or me,” NOT, “…or myself.”

Who’s – contraction – who is/has.  Whose – possessive pronoun.  “Whose responsibility is it, and who’s going to take charge?”

These are just a few of the words that get you in trouble.  Look at them, learn them and use them correctly.  You’ll be amazed at the positive difference it makes in how people perceive you and your abilities.  Listen to yourself and correct your mistakes, not only in speaking, but also in writing.

The words you use tell a story and paint a picture for the readers and listeners.  It’s your responsibility to give them vivid and vital information with words they understand.

How many people in your department are going to sign up for my writing webinars starting in two weeks?    Great!  I look forward to working with you.

If you have a particular “word worry” that you’d like me to explain, please let me know.  I’m happy to help.

Happy Tuesday.


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