False Subjects

On Monday I wrote about singular v/ plural with a focus on the “there is” or the “there are” and how the “there’s” has crept into the plural and that’s wrong. Today though, I want to show you how to avoid those two.

“There’s a long line at the movie theatre.” “There’s” is what’s known as a false subject; it starts the sentence but detracts from the real subject, “line.” To rid your sentence of the false subject, rewrite: “A long line circles the movie theatre.

“There are several incomplete projects on my desk.” What’s the subject of this sentence? It’s “projects”; rewrite it. “Several incomplete projects sit on my desk.”

Yes, they do play an important role when they’re used to point out someone or something: “There are the two new employees.” “There’s our exit for downtown.

You can rewrite them, and yet it changes the trajectory of the sentence and seems awkward: “The two new employees are there.” (Where’s “there”?)

A strong sentence starts with a solid subject and leads your readers to the place you want them to go.

Delete false subjects for more power and positive readability; there’s no reason not to.

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Singular v/ Plural

Several grammatically written and spoken word combinations creep into our everyday writing and speaking. It’s not a winning combination.

One major example that I hear and see – I actually heard myself say it yesterday: There is and then have a plural noun afterward. “Is” is a singular verb and needs to be used with a singular noun/object in your sentence. “There is more room in the back of the theatre.” “There is more food coming at the break.” “There is a mountain of work yet to be completed.” Plural examples: “There are several examples in the back of the workbook.” “There are more seats on the side.” “There are clouds rolling in from the west.”

And yet, I read – in newspapers, e-zines, e-mails and other documents, “There’s several examples….” “There’s more seats on the side.” “There’s clouds rolling in….”
When you break down the verb and noun you notice that the singular makes no sense with the plural: “… is several….”“…is more seats….” “…is clouds….”

Take notice of this specific use of the verb “to be” and its correct usage.

Just because you hear it or read it wrong from others, doesn’t mean it’s correct. Set the bar higher for yourself: use a singular verb with singular nouns; use a plural verb with plural nouns.

There’re good reasons for correct grammar!

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Your Pronouns

Following the completion of the project please reach out to myself or Lori if you don’t see the refunded charge appear on your bank statement. 

Do you see the pronoun misuse in the above sentence?  Pronoun misuse runs rampant, especially with the reflexive pronoun “myself.”

“Myself” needs either a proper noun or an “I” preceding it to make it correct. These “self” pronouns are either reflexive or intensive. The reflexive pronouns “reflect” back to the noun: 1.) I injured myself. 2.) I let myself into the office. 3.) I amaze myself…. It’s incorrect to use “myself” in place of the objective pronoun “me”; therefore, the correct way to write the sentence:

Following the completion of the project please reach out to Lori or me if you don’t see the refunded charge appear on your bank statement.  

You can’t tell someone to reach out to “myself” can you? You tell your reader to reach out to “me.”

The intensive use: 1.) I myself made my goal. 2.) I myself reviewed her book.  3.) Jody, herself, handle the case.  They follow the nouns they intensify.

Watch yourselves when you next write the reflexive pronouns.

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Listening Skill

Stop, Look & Listen

Do you remember that mantra from your grade-school teachers? I do, and I remember as a cross-walk guard – I was given a vest and a badge in 4th and 5th grades – how proud I was of that position. I also kept repeating, “Stop, look and listen.”

The mantra back then was for our safety – stop at the sidewalk, look both ways and listen for cars, motorcycles or buses. Now, as we communicate in the broader world, how germane this saying can be, whether in the workplace, at a party, with strangers, or at home. Use it for your listening skills!

When you’re in conversation with someone, when you’re in a staff meeting, when you’re on the phone, or when you’re getting instructions: Stop, look and listen.
Stop whatever you’re doing when you’re engaged in conversation or in a meeting: no mobile phone, no computer, no daydreaming: be present!

Look at the other person – eye contact is a great tool, acknowledge him/her with a shake of your head or a smile to allow him/her to know you’re listening. When you’re on the phone, look at a nondescript object – not your computer. Look and feel interested; the other person can feel it through the phone.

Listen with your whole being: active listening is in short supply in the high-tech world. We usually listen about 55+ percent of the time on any given day; we’re waiting for our turn to talk!

I’m guilty of this and I make a concerted effort to be more in tune with the other person, especially when we’re together.

Give your friends, family, co-workers, managers, prospects or others a 100 percent of your listening; you’ll be glad you did as will they. This also saves time: “What did you say?” will be deleted – you hope.

Stop, look and listen today. Pass it on.

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You v/ I

When you leave messages do you use “you” or “I” more often? When you send a sales, introductory, or informational e-mail, does it say “you” or “I” more often? Count them in your last e-mail or sales letter; the recommendation is a 2-1 ratio, “you/r” to “I” or “me.”

This is an example of an e-mail sent to me: “I just left you a voicemail, sorry that I missed you. I am on the customer engagement team and I consult with users on strategy so they can get the best results possible. I have a few things that I want to talk to you about in regards to your account. Please give me a call back today at my direct number below.” “I/me” = 7; “You/r” = 4. Does this invite the reader to call back? What’s in it for me? This is all about the caller. The specifics are somewhere in knowledge space…!

“I consult with users on strategy… best results possible.” And? What do “best results possible” look like? “I have a few things….” What are they and how will they help me in my business? Why do I need to call you back?

Any time you write, your readers want to know what’s in it for them, why take the time to read the information, or what actions will benefit them? Also, paint a picture for them or they’ll visualize something entirely different:” best possible?” “few things?” “strategy?”

It’s all about your readers! Here’s to you! Happy writing.

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“No Problem”

Me: “Thank you.”
Other person: “No problem.”

How did “no problem” become the go-to response for “You’re welcome,” “my pleasure” or “anytime”?

Do you expect the person holding the door for you, the person who picks up something you dropped, or any other “courteous” jester to be a problem? I don’t.

Let’s keep “You’re welcome,” and other responsive pleasantries in our language and do away with “no problem.” It seems more of a positive response instead of a “problem.” Agree?

A young man held the door for me when I was going into the bank, “Thank you,” I said, he said, “Yes!” That seemed more suitable to “no problem.”

We have enough real “problems” in our daily lives without thinking that someone who’s being kind or courteous thinks what they did was initially a problem.

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False Subjects

Karen writes to her co-worker: “I get the feeling that you’re confused about the new  project.” She could eliminate those first five words  and get straight to the subject of her sentence: “Does the new project confuse you?” Eleven versus six words.  This beginning is called a false subject.

There are several ways we can tackle the situation.” Again, a false subject: “there are….” Start with the subject and your sentences are not only shorter and to the point, but they get right the matter at hand. Start, “We can tackle this situation in several ways.”

False subjects can also appear in the middle of a sentence: “We decided that there were some mistakes that needed to be deleted.”Better: “We decided that some mistakes needed to be deleted.” Best: “We decided to delete the mistakes.”

False subject: “It is likely that the appointee may not qualify for the job.
True subject: “The appointee may not qualify for the job.”

False subject: “There is a book I want you to read.”
True subject: “I want you to read Crisis Management.”

Yes, “there is/are” or “it is” are needed in your sentence structure: ” It’s raining.” “There are the two women from work.”  “There’s the building I’ve been looking for.”

Getting rid of your false subjects enhances and clarifies your writing.

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