What’s in a Name?

What's in a nameAs kids, many, if not most of us were instructed to call adults by name. Depending on when, and where you grew up, that name could have been the traditional “Mr.,” Mrs.” or “Miss.” Also on the formal side, it could have been “Dr.,” “Reverend,” or “Professor.”

Somewhat less formally, we might have been able to call a physician or dentist who was a close family friend as well, something like “Dr. Larry.” Your mother’s close friend may have been called “Auntie Susan.” She may have arrived with “Uncle Colin.” Now, as adults, we may still call our older friends and “special people” by the names we learned years ago.

And some parents and friends preferred just a first name.

Names, we learned, are important. Not only for identification, but, depending on how they’re used, to create or reinforce a “tone” – the relationship that, in writing, the writer establishes with the reader. As has been attributed to Robert C. Lee, “The sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is the sound of his own name.”

Names – the correct name, correctly spelled and appropriately used – can make a huge difference both in business and in personal life!

My toddler granddaughter and I were walking out to the garden one day, and I made the mistake of calling her by her first name. Through her tears, she reminded me that she was not the name I had called her, but that she was my “little chipmunk” – the nickname I had given her, and obviously the name she preferred, and how she saw herself.

Names have been important since ancient times, when it was believed that if you could name someone, you could control him or her. And that if you could name an issue, you could get hold of it, and control it.

“Labels” can be names as well. For example, do you label yourself as an introvert? You probably are, or will be. If you call yourself a math super star, you very possibly will do better in math than if you label yourself a math dunce.

Watch how you “name” yourself. What you tell people you do, or who you tell them you are. What you can talk yourself into being.

Names are important.

Here are five tips for “naming” in business:

1. Do not use ”he,” “his,” or “him” when you are referring to humankind in general. To avoid sexism, you can reword the sentence using a generic term for his or her position.
Campaigning eliminates a politician’s privacy.

2. You can use a plural name, and “they,” or “their.”
Politicians lose their privacy when they run for office.

3. Use optional pronouns.
A politician cannot expect privacy when he or she runs for office.

4. In a formal letter, avoid using a gender-specific salutation, such as “Dear Sir,” “Dear Madam,” or “Gentlemen” unless you know for certain the gender of your specific reader or readers. If you do not know, you can use “Dear (title),” “Dear Madam or Sir,” or “Dear Ladies and Gentlemen.” With a less-formal email, salutations are frequently not used at all.

5. Avoid making a point of the gender of a person in a formerly non-traditional role. Use “police officer,” rather than “policeman” or “police woman.” Consider using “nurse,” rather than “male nurse,” for another example.

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Are You Getting the Most from Your Marketing Materials?

Materials GirlWhile we usually talk about writing strategies and techniques each week, this week let’s do a quick eyeball analysis of your online, print, and digital materials, and what else we might do with them.

In today’s tech-savvy world, there are many ways to evaluate – to get numbers showing what is working, and what isn’t. Extremely useful information, and readily available for online activity. Here’s another way to look at your materials to get the most from what you have.

Let’s say you’ve been in business for a while, or maybe you’re just starting out. In either case, you’ve produced some promotional materials online and off. Most likely a website to begin with, maybe an online newsletter, or blog site. Perhaps a brochure – online or in print – and certainly letterhead, also online or in print, or both. Envelopes, business cards, mailers, “one-sheets,” flyers, sales letters. All need to be reviewed regularly to make sure they are consistently working together, and that they will continue to do the job for you. But before we begin, here’s something you really need to know about penny-pinching marketing:

If the only thing wrong with your materials is that you’re getting tired of using the same old stuff, you cannot justify dumping it and starting over. Not if you’re a savvy penny-pinching marketer.

It could well be that the same old material you are tired of really is doing its job for you. And besides, it’s quite likely that this is the first time your prospects have seen at least some of it.

So print out your materials, and gather everything you have. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Do they have a “family look”? Are you using a consistent visual theme? Each piece should carry a unifying element – perhaps your logo, a photo, a slogan, a positioning statement – along with a consistent color scheme.
  2. Is the “look” of your pieces consistent with who you are? If you’re building an upscale position for your product or service, you’ll probably want to look upscale. On the other hand, some clients, who position themselves as a low-cost option, have told me they work against themselves by looking too high class
  3. Is the message consistent from one piece to the next? Will your readers, viewers, or listeners get the same message from each piece, or will they be confused about who you are, what you do, why they need what you offer, and what action they should take to secure the benefits you promise? Being consistent multiplies the effectiveness of your materials.
  4. Remember that it’s not about us – it’s about those individuals, or those organizations you have identified as your prospects. Consider, and write down the way you want them to think about you. Share this desired impression with everyone involved in producing your materials to consistently reinforce, and thereby multiply, the effectiveness of your every single effort.

Now that you’ve completed your first scan, let’s dig a little deeper. Which pieces are working best? What could you do to help the less successful pieces do better? What could you add or leave out? Which pieces is it cost-effective to keep, which should be eliminated? Are there pieces you really need, but don’t have?

Does each piece spell out strong benefits that really matter to your prospect – or have you focused more on how great you are. Each one of us – prospects included – acts from enlightened self-interest. How enlightening are your materials – for your prospects? Have you made it easy for your prospect to find you? To do business with you? Include a “call to action” in each piece, asking for their business, and making it easy for them to do what you are asking.

We invite you to subscribe to our blog, and to our newsletter.

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Do You Run, or Leap? Crawl, or Creep?

MOuntain BikerLet’s talk about that old workhorse, that four-letter word, that indispensible element in every sentence: the verb.

So what is a verb, and how do you use it? Perhaps you remember your English teacher telling you, “A verb is a word that expresses action (throw, run, examine, read, write), or state of being (is, are, was, seem).”

In a typical sentence (not always the most useful, but certainly the most common), the verb comes between the subject and the object, e.g., Mary (subject) throws (verb) the ball (object). You can also think of it as who (subject) does what (verb) to what (object). This of course, is for an active sentence. More about that later.

While we could talk about the differences between types of verbs (there are about a dozen types), Let’s concentrate today on how to use verbs for effect.

1. To add spice, and enhance your writing with greater clarity, use specific verbs, verbs that go a long way to creating the picture you want your reader to “see.” Paint a picture for your reader.

You could, for example, say,

“Jerry went down the hill.”

To be a bit more specific, you could say,

“Jerry ran down the hill.”

A bit better, but let’s be even more specific,

“Jerry raced down the hill.”

2. You can paint an even clearer picture with a step-by-step description, adding additional “picture verbs,”

“Jerry raced down the hill, tripped, stumbled, caught himself, and kept running as if the devil himself were about to devour him.”

In this case, we’ve used a couple of words with verbs to help paint the picture – “himself” with caught, and “kept” with running, and then the “as if” phrase to complete our picture.

You’ll note that in the above example, we’ve added words as we paint the whole picture for the reader.

3. Frequently, just exchanging one verb for another (“ran” for “went,” and then “raced” for “ran” in the above example) works well, and is all that is needed to paint a sufficient picture for more concise business writing. For example, you could say:

George sat at his desk.

Or

George slumped at his desk.

For tighter writing, you may want to avoid verbs like is, was, are, were…. E.g.,

MaryAnne is a person who plans for unexpected events.

Or

MaryAnne plans for unexpected events.

4. You could use a verb that “shows”:

Barbara is taller than her co-workers.

Or

Barbara towers over her co-workers.

5. Finally, that familiar grammar checker item: passive verbs. An active sentence is one where someone/something is, will, or has done something – an actor and an action, e.g., “Alex grasps the situation.” A passive sentence is one where someone/something is being done to, e.g., “The situation was grasped by Alex.”

Note that the active sentence in the above example contains four words, while the passive sentence must contain six words to provide the same information.

Passive sentences tend to be longer, slower moving, and impersonal. For better comprehension, easier reading, and fewer words, use active verbs to create active sentences.

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Can Words Change Your View of the World?

Can wds change your view cropA March 10 article by Chris Gaylord in the Christian Science Monitor Weekly (On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a noun) caught my attention. Crediting the Internet with generating new words “at an unprecedented pace,” the article reports that about 14 words were added to the English language daily in 2013, thanks in large part to words invented and shared by Internet users, according to the Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas.

So what about these new words? Are they “good jargon” – an insider language? Are they “bad jargon” – words unintelligible to just about everyone? Will they become a permanent part of the mainstream lexicon? And those are only the words shared primarily by Internet users.

Help is available in this area from BuzzFeed, who has created a style guide for what Gaylord calls the “Internet Age.” Knotty problems, such as whether one “de-friends,” or “unfriends,” along with explanations of “catfishing,” and “duckface” are to be found, he says.

How about words that have been around seemingly forever, but used by a very few until the issues to which they relate become the hot topics of the day. Take genetically modified (GM) crops, for example.

In a two-part series appearing in the March 23 and 29 issues of the East Oregonian, Harriet Isom refers to projections of the world’s increased need for food production, which has helped to spur research into the area of genetically modified organisms (GMO), “The world will definitely need more food. World food demand is expected to rise between 70 and 100 percent by mid-century…driven by a global population rising to 9 billion by 2050….”

With the significant worldwide controversy on the issue, it will be useful to understand terms like “transgenics,” and “cisgenics.”

Isom explains that new genome engineering tools mean that plants can be genetically modified without adding genes from other species, the process that has formed first generation GM crops. “Now they can rearrange genes from the same plant, a technique called cisgenics,” she added.

And then there are the made-up words, slang words, or insider words. Some know what they mean, others guess. Or not. Words like “spin fodder,” or “false equivalents.”

Finally, let’s think about expressions that have been around, and most people seem to have a meaning for them. Expressions like, “It is what it is,” or “Whatever…” (Note that the speaker’s tone of voice can change the meaning.)

Long-term, can expressions like these that have been used over time, change one’s view of the world, or of his or her place in it?  Can our words form the way we see the world? And in the larger picture, can new words serve to re-define the world as we see it? Let us hear what you think!

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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Business Writing Tip of the Week: Hide, Hedge, Mask and Cloud?

It happened to me again, just this past week, and maybe it happens to you as well. “So you help business, government, and association people to be better business writers,” my dinner guest said. “Does that also mean you show them ways to hide, hedge, mask, and cloud?”

Huh?mask180

Although, by doing just the opposite of the clear, concise business writing skills we talk about in a workshop, that could be the result. But no.

Another guest volunteered that it’s pretty easy to identify some of the techniques that will lead to “hiding, hedging, masking, and clouding.” So that turned the conversation to how a particular situation we’d all been following is being covered. Seems an incident, with possibly unfortunate ramifications for the company involved – and certainly for their customers – had been reported. “Did you notice how they did it?” another guest said. “It was almost like they used the company’s press release.”

I kept thinking about that comment, as well as our dinner-table discussion all the next day, and decided to take a look at the article being discussed to see whether there might be some sort of formula for how the information was presented that might have created the impressions and observations these folks passed along.

Of course our mealtime conversation had been somewhat disconnected, interrupted with bits and pieces here and there – vital issues like “Please pass the salt.”  For the most part they were the quick, disorganized, random impressions of a group of average adult readers who had read (or scanned?) the article or maybe just the headline. They were the “take-aways.” Impressions that would subsequently be passed along in conversation, and perhaps, when all you have to go on is the first information available, form opinions based on that information. Impressions that could be, maybe even would be, passed along, and along, and along.

The formula used? It looked like (1) company name, followed by a very positive phrase describing the company; (2) re-frame, and raise the question: Was the incident an act of sabotage, or was it an accident (two choices only); (3) history and background, weaving in information supporting both aspects of part two, and suggesting who could have been the perpetrator if it had been an act of sabotage; and (4) finally concluding with an inclusive statement as to the effect on the stock market.

Then I looked at some of the concepts, words, and phrases used to position the “incident.” (Note: not “catastrophe,” but “incident,” or maybe “situation.”)

There was a general air of mystification around the article. How could this have happened? Impossible! All safeguards had been taken. However, the company was calling in the appropriate government authorities to look into it thoroughly, to make certain such a thing would never happen again.

The situation was downsized, lessening its importance because such a small (amount, number, dollars) had been involved, that its effect would hardly matter at all in the big scheme of things.

Then there was a quick quote from an authority, supporting the sabotage or accident suggestions, disclaiming responsibility on the part of those involved, and providing numbers to back up that conclusion.

We have talked about, and will again discuss, three other writing issues that can lead to a lack of clarity, and accelerate hiding, hedging, masking, and clouding: passive sentences, poor use of pronouns, and lack of specificity. Probably next week.

So there you have it – some quick thoughts on that very first article, and on the writing techniques that generated the first thoughts on the issue that were voiced at my dinner table.

Your assignment – assuming you choose to accept – is to follow a reported issue from its beginning as far through as you can. Note the structure and the wording. When a story breaks, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to get complete, accurate information immediately, and later, perhaps, not at all as particular points drop from the reader’s radar screen.  A story develops over time, as additional information becomes available. Note also how important the very first statements are, how memorable, and how difficult it could be to change the initial impressions they created.

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Business Writing Tip of the Week: How to Offend, Anger, or Frustrate Without Realizing It

Do you wake up on a workday morning and say to yourself, “I wonder how many of our customers/clients/contacts I can offend/anger/frustrate today?”

Of course not! And yet, it’s so easy to do just that, and never even realize it – perhaps until it’s too late.

Here’s one: How many times, with the best of intentions, have you ended a letter with, “Please feel free to call on us if we can be of further assistance”? If you’re like most of us, you’ve used that phrase as a “curtain line” hundreds of times. We’ve all done it. Somewhere in the distant past, we may even have been taught that this is a standard business phrase to be used at the end of most correspondence.

Let’s talk about this.

To begin with, you never need a “curtain line” to end your correspondence. There are actually four customary ways to finish writing: a summary, a conclusion, a “nicety” (a word I made up to describe this type of an ending), or – and this one is too often overlooked – just plain quit when you have said what you have to say.

 Well, if it’s acceptable to “just plain quit” when you’ve said what you have to say, why do you need a “nicety” at all? And if you do, when should you use it?

A “nicety” is a tool of tone. Remember that tone is the relationship the writer sets up, or reinforces with the reader. Think about what you want that relationship to be: Helpful? Knowledgeable? Respectful? Friendly? Cooperative?

So the only time you will use, and the only purpose of a “nicety,” is to build or reinforce that relationship. And if you are not looking to do that, “just plain quit” can be a great option.

Now let’s look at the wording of that “nicety,” beginning with the phrase, “Please feel free.” You do not have to give your client, customer, or contact permission to call on you! Of course he or she should “feel free” and your telling that reader so may well sound a bit patronizing. Or at least it could, if your reader paid any attention to your “nicety.”

So here’s the good news: That phrase is so trite your reader is more likely not to read or even notice it at all. So why bother?

And then there’s that phrase, “further assistance.” We may have just informed the reader that he or she did not get the job, does not get the extension, or will not get the expected refund. Now we are essentially telling that reader, “If there’s anything else we can do for you….”

It’s wise to be sure you have done something of assistance before claiming you have. Better yet, avoid that concept altogether. Let your reader tell you if you have been helpful!

Let’s clarify a point here: The idea of offering help is a good one. Just be careful how you word it, and personalize your “nicety” to your specific reader, and the specific situation.

The same thing goes for the words and phrases we use. Most of them, as well, are carry-overs from what we learned in school. (Bless our English teachers – where would we be without them?) Just remember that formal, or academic writing, can be very different from practical business writing, and generally is.

For example, can you think of three ways to say  “about”? Well, to start with we could say  “about,” or “regarding,” or “with regard to.” Now, which one is the most formal?  Which is the least formal? Which one is down the middle?

It’s helpful to decide how formal, or how informal you want your writing to be before you begin to write. Consider the level of formality that will best support the tone, or relationship you will be establishing or reinforcing with your reader. Oh, and by the way, “about” is the least formal, while “with regard to” is the most formal. “Regarding” is somewhere down the middle, perhaps leaning a bit toward the formal side.

This week, please give particular thought to the words, phrases, and even paragraphs you use habitually. The throwaway ones. The ones we never think about, but just use without much thought.

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Business Writing Tip of the Week: “Spin”

Can you remember when “spin” was what we did as little kids to make ourselves dizzy and fall down? And then we all laughed so hard?SpinningTop175

“Spin” is not a laughing word today, is it?

In the kindest terms, maybe we could say “spin” is “putting the best face on it,” or maybe just call it “reframing,” helping your reader to see the positive side of what might normally be considered a negative.

For example, pretend you are the copywriter for an advertising campaign promoting a new housing development. Here are some of the facts about this housing development you must deal with. See if you can turn each of them – which would normally be considered negative – into a positive statement about the development:

  1. The new housing development is across the street from the main entrance to a busy urban airport, and directly under the flight path.
  2. There are sidewalks on only one side of the street.
  3. The playground has only one swing.
  4. No required minimum landscaping will be provided.
  5. There is a dangerous swamp in the southeast corner of the development.
  6. The model home blew up last Friday.

Now let’s have a little fun with this exercise. Take a couple of minutes to turn each of these probably negative statements into positive ones.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

So what did you come up with?

Perhaps on negative #1, you thought how perfect this new housing development would be for the busy business traveler, saving commute time, and allowing his or her family to be alerted to his or her return.

Negative #2: Did you think about the sidewalks provided for safe walking, or greater privacy with reduced foot traffic?

For negative #3, how about “Children’s playground thoughtfully designed for cooperative play, and to support sharing.”

“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stretch your imagination and create the unbelievably beautiful garden you have dreamed of, and only imagined until now,” might work for negative #4.

And of course the dangerous swamp in negative #5 can easily be translated into an unusual wildlife preserve allowing your family to observe nature at first hand.

Finally, the model home in negative #6 that blew up last Friday?  “Only one home has not met our rigorous standards, and it was promptly removed last Friday.”

You’ve probably come up with many other negatives-into-positives, and I hope you have had some fun with this exercise. Let us hear from you!

Now that we have the general idea of negative-into-positive with this light-hearted exercise, let’s get a little more serious. Over the next week, listen for “reframing” statements. Listen to the ads, listen to the news, listen to your co-workers, customers, and clients. Listen for how your family members – kids are particularly good at this – manage to “put the best face on” what could be a negative situation or fact.

Word choice can also be a tool of “spin.”

We all recognize connotative words, words like “propaganda,” “gossip,” and “manipulate” – words that carry baggage. Words that in and of themselves can create a negative emotion. And of course there are also words that in and of themselves can create a positive emotion.

But let’s talk about “neutral words,” and how they can be ramped up, or ramped down to inflame emotion, or to calm emotion. For two examples, let’s use the words “situation,” and “important.”

How many ways can you think of to say “situation”? Take a minute here to jot down half a dozen or more as they occur to you.

Which of these words might, under certain circumstances, create a panic? Which are the potentially inflammatory words? Crisis? Disaster? Catastrophe?

Which of these words could you use to calm a general sense of panic? Which neutral words tend to minimize the serious nature of a crisis? Situation? Issue? Matter?

Now let’s look at “important.” Well just how important is “important”? Not very is it? How much attention do you pay when someone says, “This is an important issue”? Let’s ramp it up a bit. How about critical, crucial, life-threatening? Dire, desperate, or grave? Even there you can see various levels indicating just how important this issue may be.

And to ramp it down? Important? Worth consideration? Or fairly serious?

While thinking about the quality, nature, and potential effect of the words you use may not be critical, crucial, or life-threatening, probably not even dire, desperate, or grave, I do hope you will find it worth your consideration this week.

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 We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting. Thank you.

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Do You Write the Way You Want to Write – Or the Way They Want to Read?

Last week’s release of the Intel study – what happens on the internet in one minute – has left many shaking their heads, and wondering how in the world it could be possible to break through all this internet “noise” to Internet Noisecommunicate anything to anyone.

In a worldwide culture where today and every day 204 million emails are sent, 6 million Facebook pages are viewed, and 1.3 million YouTube clips are downloaded – to say nothing of 20 million photos seen, the 61,000 hours of music played, and the 20 stolen identities plus the 47,000 apps downloaded – every 60 seconds, this is indeed a good question.

And, the study projects, by 2015 the number of networked devices on the earth will be double the number of people on earth. By that time it would take five years to view all the video content crossing IP networks each and every second.

A good question indeed.

Decide on your purpose. Why are you writing? Do you want a specific reader, or readers to read what you have written? Or is just writing it enough? Who are you writing it for?

While it seems obvious, your best chance of getting your writing read is to write about something your reader wants to read. Second-best is to write something he or she has to read. In the second case, don’t count on that much of it getting through.

Now that you have decided what to write about, ask yourself how your reader prefers to read: Online – in a letter, memo, instructions, report? Or in a blog, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn? On paper? Where are you most likely to find your reader?

Next step: assuming you want your writing read, what is the appropriate tone to use? What is the tone your reader will expect? What is the tone that will best connect with your reader? Should you use a formal, or academic tone? Will your reader be more likely to read and comprehend a less formal tone? Is that appropriate? Does your reader speak a specialized language – “legalese,” “medicalese,” “computerese”?

Much of the business writing done for higher-level co-workers tends to sound almost like a vocabulary test, as staff tends to “write up” for the higher-level reader. And yet, if that higher echelon reader were asked, he or she most likely would prefer to spend less time with a more comfortable, more readable, more easily-understood writing style. After all, that reader probably prefers having a family dinner, and maybe watching a little football, to staying late at work, trying to figure out what that piece of business writing says.

So if you want your writing to be read, write about something your reader wants to read – or present the information in such a way that he or she will want to read it. Use the writing medium your reader prefers, when you can appropriately do so. Write with a comfortable style, and an appropriate tone and language. And by all means, if you do nothing else, make it easy for the reader to get your point quickly, clearly, and concisely.

That last guideline is, and will continue to be, your most essential, most critical tool for cutting through all the “noise” your reader deals with on a day-to-day basis. The one tool you can totally control: Make your point quickly, clearly, and concisely.

We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting.

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Tip of the Week: Fatigue-Reducing, Confidence-Building Phrases

The words and phrases you use not only have an effect on your readers and listeners – but they also affect your fatigue level, your confidence, and your positive (or negative!) attitude. They can affect your on-the-job performance, how you feel about your job, and your performance review.

Your words have an effect – whether you are aware of it or not. Whether you plan for it or not. It happens anyway. Automatically.happyWoman

For example:

To reduce your fatigue level at the end of the day:

Don’t say:  “ I’ll have to look that up”

SAY:  “I’ll look that up for you”

The Culprit:I’ll have to

Not only does your client, customer, prospect or co-worker hear what you are saying, but you hear what you are saying, time after time, all day long. “I’ll have to; I’ll have to; I’ll have to…” over and over and over. Your subconscious hears it too. All those “I’ll have to do this…” and “I’ll have to do that… and that… and that…” begin to pile up on you. Of course you’re exhausted at the end of the day!

To improve your confidence:

Don’t say:  “I can’t get to that until Friday”

SAY:  “I’ll have that for you Friday”

The Culprit:  I can’t

You’re hearing “I can’t; I can’t; I can’t…” all day long. Day after day after day. And night after night after night, you carry the residual “I can’t… I can’t… I can’t…” home with you. What are you telling yourself? What are you putting into your thought process?  The natural consequence of telling yourself over and over that you can’t is that you begin to believe it!

So, in addition to the positive, “can-do” relationship you are building with your client, customer, or prospect – you can reduce your fatigue level, and build your confidence – just by changing a few habitual phrases you may not have thought about!

Let’s expand this idea just a bit.

How about positioning yourself in your organization, or with your customer or prospect? Which of the following phrases is the strongest, the most “leader-like”? And the weakest? Which phrases position you appropriately?

I think

I know

I believe

I’d like to

I am convinced

I can

There is no question

To encourage helpful feedback and positive action:

Don’t say:  “Why don’t we…” or “Why don’t you…”

(You run the risk of the subconscious coming up with the reasons we don’t!)

SAY:  “Let’s…”;  “How about…”; “What do you think about…”; or maybe, “I’d like to….”

Finally, let’s look at encouraging initiative within your organization, or even within your family:

Don’t say:  “I don’t see anything wrong with that…”

SAY:  “Looks good to me…”; or “Let’s try it….”

Think about the words and phrases you use habitually, day after day. Then try reducing your fatigue level, and building your confidence – just by changing a few habitual phrases you may never have thought about!

We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting.

© 2013 Gail Tycer • www.GailTycer.com

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Tip of the Week: Getting a Job; Getting Ahead – The Communication Secrets You Need to Know

Here’s hoping you had a fine holiday, and are refreshed, renewed, and ready to dig in on the job. As we think about our families and friends, and about all of our many blessings, it’s good to be thankful that we can work. And thankful for that work – paid, or unpaid, or part of what we do every day.

Today we are looking at tough times. Whether you are a seasoned employee or just out of school and looking for your first “real job,” the present employment statistics and opportunities can seem impossibly daunting. Really depressing.

Tough times require tough measures – new skills, better skills for a more valuable you! So where do you start?

1. First, you need to understand what business writing really is.

When I ask my workshop participants “What is business writing?” the answers vary widely. The answer is simple and straightforward: Business writing is a tool.

Business writing is as much a tool as a shovel, a rake, or a hammer. Business writing is very different from writing a term paper; different from writing a poem, a short story, a novel, or journaling. Business writing builds from the good writing skills you learned in school, and takes the next step.

Business writing is a tool – a way to get the job done. So select an appropriate way to use that tool to get the job done.

2. Next, you need to understand what that job is: What is it each piece of business writing must accomplish? Most organizations must be results-oriented most of the time to stay in business! It’s important for you to understand this. Many business writers do not understand this, nor write this way, and may not get the results you will be able to.

Why are you writing this piece? When you are successful, what will happen? How will you know you have succeeded?

3.      Third, ask yourself what tone will be appropriate to use with this particular reader. What tone, and what style is appropriate in your industry? In your organization?

Tone  is the relationship the writer sets up with the reader. How would you describe the appropriate relationship you want to establish? You could use words to describe that relationship like “professional,” “helpful,” “technical,” “cooperative,” and so on. What is your organizational culture? Is the resulting tone appropriate for your purpose? Will it get the results you need? What is the environment in which your writing will be working?

And what style? Will your academic writing style fit in with your organization? Strictly academic writing must be totally objective, and generally uses scholarly words and phrases. Purely academic, or scholarly writing is meant to be “scholars writing for scholars,” and will not, generally, communicate well with the average adult reader, who frequently is not in the habit of curling up with a fascinating dissertation after dinner.

There are appropriate styles for most professions and disciplines that probably will not communicate with, explain, or help the information to be well understood by the average adult reader either, but are expected by readers within the profession or discipline where they are appropriate.

To be understood by the average adult reader – if that is your intended reader – you will probably want to use simpler, more comfortable words and phrases – not “vocabulary exercise words.”

Much of the time you will find, unlike when you are using the strictly academic style, that your writing needs to motivate, convince, or persuade your reader to take (or not to take) an action, or to change (or hold on to) a belief or a practice. Understanding the reader, the environment your writing must work in, and the job it must do will guide you in selecting the appropriate style.

Let me just say that in all the years I’ve been working with chief executives in business and in government, I’ve never had one ask me to teach their staffs to “write up” – to write more formally – to them. A comfortable, easy-to-read-and-grasp-quickly style is what they ask for. After all, they want to eat dinner with their families – and maybe watch some football too!

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Recommend a Gail Tycer workshop for your workplace, or suggest one of Gail’s shorter presentations for an upcoming meeting or conference

© 2013 Gail Tycer • www.GailTycer.com

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