Professional Communication - A Key Element of Success

Listed below are some common pitfalls that you will want to avoid as a professional. In some cases making these errors may not make difference; however, it is almost a certainty that at some point in your career decisions about your promotion, hiring, and other advancement opportunities will rest on having avoided these errors. Peers and supervisors are loathe to offer correction or guidance on these matters.

Making Better Impressions Through Better Grammar
(Good grammar is like good manners. It never hurts you.)

  1. Most errors in pronoun case (she or her, I or me, us or we, etc.) occur when using the conjunction and. The easiest way to determine the correct case is to remove the and from the sentence. Few people make mistakes without the and.
    Wrong: Me and John went swimming. Try it without the and: Me went swimming - clearly wrong. Correct: John and I went swimming. (Note: always list yourself last in a series).
    Quiz: They went with (her or she) and (I or me). You would not say They went with she or They went with I. Correct: They went with her and me.
    For complete formal grammar rules see the Pronoun Hound
  2. The phase try and __ appears to be a popular local (SD) idiom that is held to be an oddity by those outside the region. The phase try and is almost always unnecessary; however, if one really feels the need to add the concept of trying the proper phraseology would be to try to __. Wrong: Dr. Lange would like to try and schedule a meeting this week either on Wednesday. Correct: Dr Lange will try to schedule a meeting this week. Often the true meaning: Dr Lange will schedule a meeting this week.


Better Thinking Through Better Language
(Is thinking sub-vocal speech?)

  1. Cease saying hopefully, because it almost modifies the wrong noun. Rather, use I hope. After all that is what is meant by those who say hopefully. More

  2. Single most, single biggest, single best, etcetera are redundant since most, biggest, best are superlative meaning single.

  3. Cease using the fact that unless it is truly something generally accepted as true, which is the logic definition of fact. Rather, use a possessive case to avoid feeling the need to use the phase the fact that. A correct example: What do you think about Mary's possibly going to the store? (Avoid: What do you think about the fact that Mary might possibly be going to the store?

  4. Prepositions may appear at the end of a sentence but only if they are needed. Wrong: Where are you at? Where are you going to? What were you thinking about? Acceptable use: He ran after the train and jumped on. He asked her out.

  5. The use of in order to is never needed. Its use almost always signals the start of a very weak sentence. Poor: In order to change the tire,we needed a jack. Acceptable: To change the tire,we needed a jack. Better: We needed a jack to change the tire.

  6. Use great caution when using the words literally and virtually. These words usually either add no meaning or convey the exact opposite of the intended meaning. Wrong: I literally lost my head over him. They virtually saved the man's life by moving the car off him. I could have eaten a horse: virtually! Figuratively, we may literally never know - virtually! Correct: We may never know.


Additional Tips

  1. Do not pronounceheight incorrectly. Height rhymes with night, not width.