Good grammar in spoken and written communications can dramatically increase your value to both current and potential employers. In the business world, and especially in the job interview process, an important part of your value is the perception you present of the profitability of your past performance and expectation of future continued successful performance, and the ideas and strategies you express. If you can speak well and in an organized fashion to communicate important concepts to people with whom you interview with or work with - and do it quickly and clearly, you remove an important obstacle to your advancement; an obstacle of communications of which many people are not even aware.
When you speak and write correctly, people make the assumption that you are intelligent, educated and capable, and they will concentrate on what you have to say, on your ideas, not on the incorrect or unclear way that you try to express yourself. Think for a moment about the effect that misuse of the English language has had on the image of politicians and public figures over the years. People in the pubic eye who don’t use language well are considered foolish for their errors. Needless to say, this is not the image that you wish to present to others in your professional career. By the same token, if you write and speak correctly and effectively, people will think of you as a leader, and you will be able to advance according to the value of your work and your vision, and not be hindered by the perception that you ‘don’t talk so good. ’
In this article, we will be discussing the impact that your proper use of language can have on your professional standing. And how, “. . . if you don’t talk so good, you often just don’t get nowheres. " And, while this article is not meant to be a formal lesson in grammar, it's my intention to touch on some of the most common areas where we fumble with the rules of grammar, so that the reader will leave this article with some practical information that may help. Beyond that, it is the responsibility of each individual to seek out more detailed and formal sources for continued grammatical improvement.
Let's cover some of the basics. The major areas to review to improve one's grammar, are sentence structure, the various parts of speech, subject and verb agreement, pronouns, and punctuation.
When you speak, as much as when you write, if you phrase things correctly, then your audience will pay attention to what you have to say. If you use language incorrectly, the audience will focus its attention on your errors, and not on your points. It’s similar to a smooth stretch of road when you are driving. Your focus is on what’s ahead of you and around you, so you understand where you are and what’s coming your way. The only time you will put your focus on the road itself is if you hit a pothole, or a speed bump. As long as the road is smoothe, you can keep your eyes where they belong. So it is with those who listen to you speak or read what you write.
Understanding sentence structure is crucial. The sentence is the basic building block of all verbal and written communication. Even in the modern context of bullet lists and sound bytes, the sentence is still the standard way to express a complete thought. Many people actually think in sentences.
The first step to understanding sentence structure is being able to identify the parts of a sentence. Every sentence must have a subject, which is usually a noun or pronoun, and a verb, which is a word that expresses an action, such as ‘runs, ’ or a state of being, such as ‘exists. ’ Most sentences will also have words that describe the subject or the verb in more specific terms. These descriptive words, or modifiers, are usually adjectives, which describe nouns and pronouns, and adverbs, which describe verbs. Adverbs often end in ‘ly, ’ as in ‘ran quickly. ’
Also, it helps to understand some of the subtleties, like the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs, and what makes a word an irregular verb. Now is a good time to say - as you go through this process of considering new concepts of writing and speech, don't be put off by the terms used or the seemingly detailed nature of grammar, thinking it is too boring or demanding. There are many free sources at your local library and on the internet to help you get your mind around proper use of grammar. Concentrate on the benefits you receive from having a better understanding of basic grammar.
With that said, be aware that the common verb, which denotes action, comes in more than one flavor. For example, a transitive verb has a direct object, as in ‘ran the race. ’ An intransitive verb does not. Many verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively, as in the difference between ‘the boy ran, ’ and ‘the boy ran the race. ’ In the first case, since there is no object for the verb, ‘ran’ is used intransitively. In the second, ‘race’ is the direct object, so ‘ran’ is transitive. And an irregular verb is a word whose past tense is not formed by the regular rules of adding E-D. For example, the past tense of the word ‘live’ is ‘lived, ’ but the past tense of ‘give’ is ‘gave. ’ ‘Give’ is an irregular verb.
Other areas of consideration in understanding sentence structure are the uses of prepositional phrases as adjectives and adverbs, agreement in number between subject and verb, as in ‘the men are’ as opposed to ‘one of the men is, ’ the proper use of pronouns, and correct punctuation.
Correct punctuation is an issue for many people and essential for creating clear business communications. The rules of usage are confusing at times. People are often unsure of correct punctuation while they are writing, but can usually recognize incorrect punctuation when they are reading. Therefore, it makes good sense to understand the correct usage for the common punctuation marks: the period, the comma, the question mark, the exclamation point, quotation marks, apostrophes, colons and semi-colons. Correct capitalization is also included under the heading of ‘Punctuation. ’
As I've stated, much of this material is basic, but it applies as your sentence structure becomes more complex. Complex sentences can contain several phrases or clauses, and punctuating them correctly is the key to making them understandable to your reader. If you leave your reader hanging by using sentence fragments, they will feel confused, and be forced to reread what you’ve written to try and understand it. If the subject of your writing is at all complex, you will lose your audience entirely by confusing them with bad grammar. Therefore, check and recheck your draft for sentence fragments, run on sentences and misplaced phrases and clauses.
There are clever short cuts available to you. Many professionals who create written communications on a regular basis keep some resources handy. A copy of ‘Strunk & White’s Elements of Style’ is a good addition to any writer’s desk. ‘Elements of Style’ is a single volume reference to correct grammar and usage. It is set up as a reference book, so it is easy to use. There are also many sites on the Internet that furnish comprehensive usage information.
Practice and study of basic grammar helps implant regular good usage in both written and spoken communications. If you feel you may improve your results in a job interview or at your current job by being able to present yourself as a knowledgable and effective communicator, then take some time to find a few resources on basic grammar. Set aside study hours. Don't treat this exercise as a forced labor that you dread. See it as an introduction to a new phase of your career, no less valuable than classes or tutorials you may be required to take to improve or upgrade or maintain the skills you utilize in your vocation.
BEST OF LUCK IN YOUR JOB SEARCH
Mark Baber has 20 years experience as an Executive Search recruiter.
Mark is Recruit Consultant to http://www.JobNewsRadio.com where Jobseekers access 2 Million job transactions, and can submit their Resumes Free and have them distributed freely to Employers they choose by industry, vocation, City or Region.
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