Are Twitter, texting and instant messaging killing our ability to write?

I heard a piece on the radio last evening talking about whether Google is killing our memories. The suggestion was that we don’t bother to try to remember things anymore. Instead, we just punch the appropriate prompts into our handy-dandy Google search bar and we have our answer in a matter of milliseconds. There’s no need to tax our poor, overworked brains with unnecessary trivia. Unfortunately, it seems the brain works like most other parts of us – if we don’t use it, we lose it.

OK, now let’s switch gears to (you’ll never guess) grammatically correct, professional looking writing. It isn’t hard to understand how constantly using the shorthand required for modalities that only allow a limited number of characters could seriously decondition the part of the brain we use for writing proper English. Even email, when used for personal reasons, tends to take on a conversational (not necessarily full sentence) style. All of this is great. It’s a huge time saver and has made written communication much more accessible to those of us with limited spelling and grammatical prowess.

However…BIG however, it is SO important to switch gears and use impeccable spelling and grammar when you are writing to potential or current clients, especially if it’s to more than one of them at once. Writing is not everyone’s strong suit. If it isn’t yours, have someone else do it or at least proofread and edit it for you. Also, choose your writer or editor wisely. If their command of written English is only slightly better than yours, they are not the right person for the job. It is more than worth whatever you need to invest to have your communications looking professional.

There is nothing that will more effectively alienate someone who is getting their first impression of you through a welcoming email, a newsletter or even your website than spelling mistakes or bad grammar. It can instantly ruin the image you are trying to portray; that of a knowledgeable professional, an expert. It breaks my heart when I see it, and I see it a lot these days.

Please, do what you need to do to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. You have worked too hard on all the other pieces of your business to let your writing shoot you in the foot.

That’s it for now. Let’s be careful out there! (Is there anyone else out there old enough to remember Hill Street Blues??)

Love and Light, Namaste…Debbie

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Here she goes again…

Now that I have come out of the closet, so to speak, admitted my secret desire to be an English teacher; I’m nervous to write, just in case I make a mistake. Silly me. I know that my intentions are honourable. I just want to point out some of the common spots many of us, (including me) make silly errors that can cast us in a less than favourable light, especially for that critical first impression.

So, here goes. There are a couple numbers that tend to get abused. The worst is ‘two’. Of course, that is the written form of the number ‘2’. The other two spellings that sound the same are ‘to’ and ‘too’. In simple terms, ‘too’ is used in places where ‘also’ or ‘as well’ would make sense – ‘I want to go too.’ The other common use is to indicate an excess – ‘too small’ or ‘too cute’. ‘To’ gets used in front of action words – ‘I want to go, or to read, or to hit someone, etc.’  The other place you will see ‘to’ is in front of a destination of some sort. ‘I am going to the cabin, or to Cuba, or to bed, etc.’  I’m sure there are lots of exceptions and additions to what I’ve mentioned, but I think I’ve covered the majority of situations.

Quickly, let’s also talk about ‘four/for/fore’. Okay, the obvious – ‘four’ is the written form of ‘4’. Not so obvious, ‘forty’ is how ‘40’ is spelled. ‘Fore’ doesn’t get used much these days, but means ‘in the front’ or it could also be a warning from a golfer that his/her shot may be heading to where people might be impacted. The third and most common spelling is ‘for’. Most of the time, this is the spelling you will use. Technically, it is a preposition. Some of the more common uses are 1) to indicate belonging – ’The uniforms are for the soccer team’; 2) to indicate the object or purpose of something – ’I read for enjoyment’ and 3) to indicate something or someone that fills a need – ’I need the books for next semester.’  In all cases, ‘for’ links two fragments of a sentence.  The easiest way to remember is to use ‘for’ unless either of the other specific cases apply.

I have only covered a few examples, the ‘tip of the iceberg’ really. I hope I have covered some of the most common usages. The other related trouble spot is ‘fourth’ versus ‘forth’. Again, very quickly, ’fourth’ is the spelled form of ‘4th’; ‘forth’ is almost synonymous with ‘forward.’

Well, that’s it for this edition of ‘English with Debbie’. I hope something in my tirade is a little bit helpful. I would be grateful for any feedback or requests.

 

Love and Light, Namaste…Debbie

 

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I can’t stand it any longer!!

On the very wise advice of my mentor, I am not going to worry too much about saying anything profound. I’m just going to say what’s on my mind. So, here goes. I’m a closet English teacher.

I am on quite a few lists. I get about 100 emails most days. There are lots of promotions, ezines, articles and other communications; some very simple – just text embedded in the email; some very professional looking – beautifully laid out, lots of colour, fancy graphics and fonts. So, what is driving me nuts, you ask. I hate to see the english language used improperly. In fact, it really puts me off. Rightly or wrongly, it affects how I view the sender. All of a sudden, the communication does not appear as professional. The sender loses credibility. I know I must sound like a terrible snob, and that’s not it at all. I just have an overwhelming urge to fix it before anyone else sees it:-). I feel badly for the sender.

Sometimes it is a typo, pure and simple. In a casual communication, I don’t think this is a big deal. Spell check programs probably weed most of these out, anyway. The problems occur when the wrong word is used, but it’s still a word so it isn’t flagged.

Over the next while, I’m going to try to address some of the most common mistakes I see. These are not in any kind of order, just the ones that are top of mind for me on a given day. I will try to make the distinctions practical, rather than theoretical. Who cares if it’s a noun, verb or preposition:-)

Let’s take the word “there” or “their” or “they’re”. “They’re” is a short form for “they are”. “Their” indicates possession (their shoes). “There” either indicates a place (over there) or the existence of some entity (there is, there are). It isn’t that it’s difficult. It just really takes diligent proofreading, checking that the context is right for the spelling used. It is so very important when it comes to that critical first impression.

OK, I guess that’s enough ranting for one day. Stay tuned. I’ll be back with more:-).

Love and Light, Namaste…Debbie

 

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