Do you have much contact with business people in their twenties?
I get to work with lots of talented young people. They amaze and impress me with their confidence and talent and ease with technology. They are so much faster and capable that I am with technology.
But there’s still one area where they look to me for help. One area where the “village elder” is of value – knowing “the old ways” of the written word.
Sometimes these young people need to communicate with “older generations” – people in authority in business or clients or customers who care about correctness in writing – things such as spelling and using the correct word.
I’m often called in – just to make sure these super-smart young people get the little things right with their word choice.
Often I pick up mistakes that spell check wouldn’t catch – mistakes such as choosing the wrong word – getting mixed up between words such as weather and whether.
This week I was reading a website – and prominently on the ABOUT US section was this: (details generalised to avoid embarassment)
Weather you want to x or y…we can help you
The WRONG WEATHER!
I help younger writers remember how to choose the right words with simple memory devices:
The wEATher can make you want to EAT different foods – warm porridge on cold, rainy days.
You use WHEther – WHEn you have a cHoice
There’s the H but no A.
There is often an OR – whether you want X or Y
I know this sounds childish – but these simple memory devices DO work.
When I work with organisations we study the industry’s writing to find the problem words.
(For example in finance and law and insurance – BEAR and BARE and PRINCIPAL and PRINCIPLE are problem words. In advertising and marketing – it’s words such as PEER and PIER)
We come up with ways to help writers know what word to use. Some of the organisations I work with also choose to create resources for new people starting at the business (as part of the induction) to be aware of the correct words to use.
Now, there are many younger business people who DO know how to choose the correct words.
From experience however I know that there are also many other writers in their twenties who struggle in choosing the write words. I see so many mistakes in their written communication and even on company websites.
I explain to the bosses that the poor writing and spelling and word choice is not a reflection of intelligence – it’s just that different generations focussed on different things. The writing mistakes can however damage an organisation’s image of professionalism.
For more mature generations of business people – we had spelling and grammar drummed into us.
Now when you need to explain whether to choose weather or whether – you have the easy-to-use memory device.
If you (or your organisation) would like help improve your Business English – please contact me. I am based in Brisbane and mainly work all over Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.
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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.
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