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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Written Coomunication Skills Benefit Careers in All Fields

The "Jobs" section of The Birmingham News for June 29, 2008 contains an excellent article by Jean M. McLean about the importance of good written communication skills in business. Here are the concerned comments Ms. McLean collected from a number of business leaders:
  • According to Roy Brewer, president of Capstone Development International, LLC, many recent college graduates are "severely" shortchanged in communication skills. They use inappropriate grammar, include text message terms in correspondence, and are generally unprepared to communicate.

  • All workers should communicate with a businesslike, unemotional tone, according to Melanie McNary, Senior Professional in Human Resources and president of the Birmingham chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources. She warns that e-mails can sound overly emotional when written too quickly and without thought.

  • Charles Wilkinson, CEO of Human Resource Management, Inc. in Birmingham warns that, even though workers might delete e-mail messages, they never really go away, and inappropriate content can sometimes come back to haunt. "E-mail is like putting a bullet in a gun. You can't get it back once it's fired."

Ms. McLean also points out that employees often complain that managers write "cryptic and/or wordy messages that hide what they really mean." They, too, should edit for clarity and remember that big words don't necessarily impress. "There's a problem when someone is using words and language to manipulate rather than communicate," says Mike Lebeau, director of Career Services at UAB.

McLean offers this good reminder for writers at all levels of a business:

Most publications, including newspapers, are written on an eighth grade level. Business writing should be the same. Simple sentences allow adults to read quickly and efficiently.

Here are some good DO's and DON'T's from Ms. McLean's column:

DON'T use text message abbreviations in business correspondence.

DON'T answer e-mail when you are emotional.

DO read something well written each day. Reading builds vocabulary, spelling, and grammar skills.

DO proofread everything you write, including e-mail.

DO ask good writers and managers for suggestions about your writing.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Birmingham PowerCard newsletter makes "mother" plural by adding an apostrophe "s"!

You may be tired of my "preaching" on this subject, and I promise I would let it go if I didn't see so many examples of this incorrect usage. The latest one appeared in a post on the Birmingham PowerCard newsletter for May 2008. One restaurant was reminding everyone about free dessert on Mother's Day.

Mother's before the word "Day" DOES get an apostrophe because it shows that May 11, 2008 is a day belonging to mothers.

However, the restaurant went on to say, "Free dessert for all mother's on Sunday, May 11th." NO! "All mothers" is simply a plural. You make a word plural by adding an "s," NOT an apostrophe "s."

The sentence should read as follows:

Free dessert for all mothers on Sunday, May 11.

By the way, those of you who have taken one of my workshops recently will also notice that I changed May 11th to May 11. We pronounce the "th" when we read a date, but it is not necessary to write the "th" (the "rd" on May 3 or the "st" on May 1).

I do hope all of you had a nice Mother's Day and were able to honor your mothers in some special way.