My Thoughts by Rick Stephens

What Did You Say?

Posted in Communications,Continual Improvement,Personal Growth by Rick on the March 14th, 2007

Diana RossI was watching American Idol last night (I know dog, it sounded a little pitchy to me too) and one of Motown’s greatest performers, Diana Ross, was coaching the contestants on their performances. I admire and respect Diana Ross for what she has accomplished, both as a performer and as a person, so I was surprised to hear her explain to one of the contestants that she needed to be careful and “pronunciate” her words correctly while singing. I looked to my wife and said, “Did she just say ‘Pronunciate’?” I thought Ms Ross had inappropriately combined Pronounce and Enunciate to create a non-existent word “Pronunciate.” To my surprise there is a word “Pronunciate.” Though rarely used in our language, it means exactly what Ms Ross meant for it to mean and was used correctly.

Hearing Diana Ross use a strange word caused me to think about the importance of good communication skills in business. I believe that how we communicate to our customers and clients can directly influence our success or failure in business. When consumers hear slang or improperly structured sentences, they may subconsciously discount our credibility as a business owner and make their purchase elsewhere. Structuring sentences and using words correctly can be very influential in this area and it should not be taken for granted.

I am not an English teacher, nor do I want to pretend that I never make mistakes in grammar or word usage, but there are a few very common things that everyone should avoid.

One of the words I have heard many times from otherwise educated people is “Irregardless.” Hearing this said, for me, is like scraping finger nails across a blackboard. The proper word is always, “regardless.”

Another common mistake is the usage of the pronouns I and Me. Many people think that using the word “Me” is inappropriate, when in fact, it is the only proper grammatical word for the sentence. Example: “It is important for you and I to speak correctly” is an incorrect usage of the pronoun “I.” In this case “Me” is the proper word. Another example: “It is important that you and I speak proper English” is the correct usage of the pronoun “I.”

There is an easy way to determine which pronoun to use. Take the other person out of the sentence and see how the pronoun sounds. In the first example the sentence would be, “It is important for I to speak correctly.” You can see that “I” does not work here and is therefore improper in this example. In the second example the sentence would read, “It is important that I speak proper English.” The use of “I” works fine in this sentence and the pronoun “Me” would sound awkward. Therefore, in this example “I” is being used correctly.

It can be difficult to use the English language correctly, simply because it is very complex and at times illogical. The culture we grew up in can also influence how we speak, and if English is not your native tongue, it can be an almost impossible task learning to speak it properly. For those who have learned English as a second language, I admire you and I can appreciate the challenge you must have, and are facing, to grasp its nuances. For those who speak English as a native tongue, it is even more important that it is spoken correctly. Do not accept that your childhood environment or lack of education excuses you from this vital skill. Learn to speak the language correctly and you will impress more often than not. People do notice what you say and how you say it.

An employee of mine was explaining to me one day why the Hispanic cleaning crew in our building failed to follow some cleaning instructions we had left for them the night before. He explained, “They just don’t speak no good English.” “I guess not” I said, and went about preparing his performance review.

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