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The Write Stuff
March 2018 Volume 14 Issue 3

What Are You Communicating?

Though it happened many years ago, I still vividly remember how frustrated a friend of mine was when she was repeatedly stymied in her attempt to change lanes on the freeway. She wasn’t using a turn signal — so I asked her how the other drivers were supposed to know she wanted to move over.

Unfortunately, even using a turn signal doesn’t always mean other drivers will be courteous, but at least you’re communicating your intent. Are you doing that by the way you communicate — clearly letting others know what you mean? Here are a couple things you may be doing routinely that probably drive people crazy.

Failing to respond. To me, this is a cardinal sin. When someone makes a request of you or asks you a question via email, do you reply? Oh, you say, maybe I don’t know or I need to do some research before responding. That’s fine — but let the sender know that. Hearing nothing promotes frustration, and doesn’t reflect well on your professionalism.

Making promises you can’t keep. Choose your words carefully when referring to periods of time. If I’m told something will be done immediately, I expect it to happen right away. If you tell me you’ll send me something this week, I expect to have it by Friday. I think you get my point — set expectations you can meet, or let people know when your best-laid plans have gone awry. A great strategy is to under-promise and over-deliver.

Remember, every time you communicate with someone in the business world, you have a chance to “increase your stock” or be “downgraded.”

It’s St. Paddy’s Day
I don’t have a drop of Irish blood, but everyone is considered Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, right? My hometown has one of the U.S.’s biggest celebrations — even dyeing the Chicago River green for the occasion. What does this have to do with writing? Many people incorrectly refer to this merry holiday as St. Patty’s Day, but it should be St. Paddy’s — Paddy from the Irish name Padraig.

Em Dashes or Parentheses?
Parentheses have their place in written materials, but you should refrain from using them in the middle of a sentence; they’re almost like stop signs to readers. Instead, use em dashes, the “granddaddy” of the dash family that also consists of the smaller en dash and hyphen. Here’s a timely example: The 11th-seeded San Diego State Aztecs play later today — making their first March Madness appearance since 2015 — facing the #6 seed Houston in Wichita, Kansas.

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