Language is a tool that helps you communicate your message to your audience. Sloppy and imprecise language, however, can interfere with your communication. Here are six tips for eliminating sloppy language:
1. Mind your grammar
You don't have to be a grammarian to follow basic grammar rules. I'm not talking about split infinitives or dangling participles, but basic grammar like verb tenses and pronoun usage. Avoid grammar mistakes such as, "we was going" or "him and me went." Check out Lynn Gaertner-Johnston’s blog http://www.businesswritingblog.com/ for grammar rules for writing that are also applicable for speaking.
2. "We" vs. "They"
If you are a part of a group or business and you are referring to the members of that group or business, demonstrate that you're part of the team by using "we" rather than "they." I've heard employees say "they have to achieve these goals," when referring to their own company. Using "they" makes it sound like you're not a team player and that you don't believe you can contribute to the success. If it doesn't come naturally to think of yourself as "we" and part of the group, then practice saying (and believing) it.
3. Get rid of the weak, minimizing words
Words like "sorta," "just," or "kinda" minimize the impact of your message. And stringing a few of them together, as in, "I'm just gonna discuss" or "it's just kinda like" makes it worse. Instead, use definitive, strong, precise phrases like, "I will discuss" or "it is."
4. Cut out the fillers
Words like "um," "ah," and "you know" become verbal crutches and overusing them can make you sound like you're unsure of what to say next. Instead of using filler words, pause and take a breath – and then move on to your next words.
5. Beware the throwaways
"Throwaways" are the words or phrases that come out of your mouth when your brain has already moved onto the next sentence. Examples include phrases like "and that kind of stuff" and "and all the rest of it." Either list out specifically what you mean, or have a deliberate end to the sentence rather than using a throwaway and trailing off…
6. Do you really mean that?
Think about the words you're saying – their meaning and how can they be interpreted. I once heard a healthcare company manager say to senior leadership at his company, "as people become more health conscious, it could be detrimental to us." Several executives cringed. I don't think he really meant to indicate that business and life would be better if people were less health conscious and thus, became sicker, but that's how it sounded. He could have rephrased the sentence so it didn't sound like the company was eager for people to get sick. What if he had said that to the shareholders or to the public?
To become conscious of the words that you're saying, practice, record yourself and get feedback from someone. You can learn to avoid the sloppy language that interferes with your ability to communicate your message and prevents your audience from understanding what you want to say.
by Gilda Bonanno LLC
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