Three of Three Tips to Sound Intelligent in Your Corporate Communication
By Patricia Fripp with help from Eleanor Dugan
Throughout the business community, ambitious individuals who work in highly competitive environments know the impression they give in their business communications often makes the difference between career failure and success.
When you make the following grammar mistake, you will sound less intelligent than you actually are. Effective communication, both in speaking and writing, make an important and significant impression. Most likely, your English teacher gave you the following advice. In case you have forgotten, here are three business communication tips to improve the impression you make to your prospects, clients, and senior executives.
Tip #3 – Watch Your Language with Lay and Lie
Unless you’re lucky enough to be multi-lingual, English is the main tool you use to transmit your ideas to others. Yet you don’t need a Harvard degree to sound intelligent. It’s just a matter of mastering a few tricks, AKA grammar rules.
Let’s consider “to lay” and “to lie.” The first verb transmits or transfers its action to something (“transitive”), while the other doesn’t (“intransitive”). There’s also “to lie,” meaning to fib, which further muddies the waters.
In school you probably confronted dozens of charts showing how “to lay” (set), “to lie” (recline), and “to lie” (fib) work when describing the past, present, future, singular and plural (a process called “conjugation”). Instead of memorizing charts, here’s a four-line verse to remember that will make you a master of these tricky common verbs:
Yesterday, Todd lay in bed.
We laid an icepack on his head.
Today he lies beneath the sod.
We lay a wreath to honor Todd.
When Ken Burns’ 1990 documentary, The Civil War, first aired, many viewers commented on the astonishingly literate and grammatically perfect letters written home by soldiers who had had no formal schooling beyond the age of ten or twelve. In the nineteenth century, education was a serious and intensive process, and people were expected to continue learning all their lives through reading, conversation, and study.
As a professional, you are constantly working to educate others, sharing your ideas and expertise. One additional gift you can offer your listeners (and readers) is clear, powerful English.
My wish is you found this grammar tip practical, educational, and entertaining. Written and verbal communication should never be boring. Before you send that intelligent-sounding email, letter, or proposal, remember to check it at least once for grammar and spelling errors. My executive clients tell me they continue to be surprise by obvious mistakes in many of the corporate communications they receive.
Here is a bonus tip…you may want to have a secret weapon as I do! Get a Grammar Granny! In my case, it is Fripp editor and author Eleanor Dugan.
Whether you own a business, report to a boss, or search for a job, it is important to sound intelligent in all your corporate communication. Never underestimate the power of your words.
Words and correct grammar give you a competitive edge!
Patricia Fripp is an award-winning keynote speaker, San Francisco-based executive speech coach, and sales presentation skills trainer
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
Very good piece differentiating “lay” and “lie”.
P.S. Typo in 4th-to-last paragraph: “My executive clients tell me they continue to be surprise[d] by obvious mistakes…”