How Gossip Starts, and Rumors Spread

What keeps you up at night? Well, it’s probably not where to put a comma (,), or how to use a semicolon (;). Odds are it’s more likely to be the result of your business writing, or of a piece written by someone else, than the mechanics of what was written.

And that gets us into the discussion of how gossip starts, and rumors spread. For actual examples:

  1. The question asked was whether she used her position to benefit her own business which is illegal.

Oh ho! So in addition to everything else, she was running an illegal business? While the grammatical issue here is the order of the words in the sentence, the very likely result of that error will be all of the unpleasant things that come along with running an illegal business, and not incidentally, the gossip and the rumors. The destruction of her credibility, and her reputation.

In short, this sentence could very well put her out of business altogether – all due to a slight grammatical error that could easily be fixed by rearranging, and slightly changing the wording of the sentence as follows:

The question asked was whether she illegally used her position to benefit her own business.

2. By February 2013, the business relationship had soured, and Smith told Jones he didn’t have any ownership in the company.

What went on here? Who was it who didn’t have any ownership in the company? Did Smith start an argument with Jones because Smith told Jones that Jones had no ownership in the company? Or was Smith offering to make a deal with Jones because he (Smith) had no ownership in the company? Perhaps what the writer meant was:

By February 2013, the business relationship had soured and Smith told Jones that Jones had no ownership in the company.

Or maybe he meant:

By February 2013, the business relationship had soured and Smith told Jones that he (Smith) had no ownership in the company.

And by the way, for all of you grammar catchers, “February 2013” needs no comma, while the actual day, let’s say, “February 12, 2013” does.

3. Jones Coin and Currency, where they want to make sure you don’t get ripped off somewhere else.

Heck no. Give us the first chance. While this is clearly a mistake, it’s always a good idea to ask two or three people to look at what you’ve written before it’s published. The “fix,” of course, is to delete “somewhere else.”

With its obvious error, this sentence goes right along with, “At this price, they won’t last long!” The inference here being that the product is so cheap it will be in the “donation stack,” or the garbage can very soon.

Two of my newspaper favorites are:

4. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver last year showed how the meat is made to horrify a studio audience.

And

5. State attorney Jane Doe, special prosecutor in the John Smith case, announced that Joe Jones will be charged with second-degree murder in the March 16 shooting death of John Doe during a news conference Wednesday in Sacramento, California.

So here, should you choose to accept, is a little homework. How would you fix sentences 4., and 5.? Let us hear from you!

 

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com to learn more.

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