by Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM/ Published March 2015
Last month (February FLCAJ), we reviewed your professionalism, manners, and clothing, and how they form a first impression to an observer. That good or poor first impression will be validated by what comes out of your mouth. So, let’s review your grammar (not your grandma). Here are some reminders about those similar yet confusing words.
• Who and Whom: “Who” correlates with the pronouns he/she while
“whom” correlates with him/her.
• Continual and Continuous:
“Continual” means always occurring, whereas “continuous” means never ending. You definitely wouldn’t want to mix these up in a business contract.
• Nor and Or: This is one of the grammar rules that is a simple one to remember. Just think of the N. “Nor” follows neither while “or” follows either.
• Complement and Compliment: A “complement” enhances or adds to something, such as a pair of earrings complementing an outfit. On the other hand, a “compliment” is something nice that is said such as, “I like your earrings.”
• Affect and Effect: Affect is a verb, “That song affects my mood.” Effect is a noun, “That movie has such an inspirational effect.”
• Bring and Take: You “bring” something with you on vacation, but you “take” something away from it.
• Me and I: If there are other people in the sentence such as, “Mary, Bob, and I” or “Mary, Bob, and me,” then take out the other people and see what makes sense.
• There, Their, They’re:
“There” refers to a place, “their” refers to someone’s possession of something, and “they’re” is a contraction of they are.
Most of us already know this, but it’s easy to exchange these words.
Unfortunately, spell check doesn’t catch these mistakes.
• Your, You’re, Yore: Similar to there, their, they’re, spell check usually can’t tell the difference between these.
“Your” is possessive, “you’re” is a contraction of you are, and “yore” refers to the past.
• To, Too, Two: Phew, there are so many triplet words to watch out for. Use “to” when you’re going to a place, “too” to denote also or as well, and “two” to specify the number 2.
• Fewer and Less: If you can count it, use fewer, but if it’s uncountable, then use less.
• Principal and Principle: Just think of the last three letters of each word. PrinciPAL is a person whereas princiPLE is a moral or standard that is upheld.
• It’s and Its: “It’s” is a contraction for it is, while “its” is a possessive pronoun. If “it is” doesn’t make sense, use “its.”
• Literally: Do not be sarcastic if you use the word “literally,” especially in the business world. “I am literally starving to death,” means that you’re about to die from dehydration or starvation.
Don’t say literally unless you literally mean it.
• Capital and Capitol: When talking about Washington, D.C., this is especially tricky.
“Capital” is a city such as D.C., but “capitol” is the building where lawmakers meet. So the capitol is usually in the capital. By the way, capital can also reference wealth.
• Ultimate: It means “the last.” For instance, “Titanic’s maiden voyage was its ultimate voyage.” Be careful when using this word. Your innocent “ultimate last day at work” might translate to the last day of your life.
Ultimate can also mean “greatest,” or “fundamental.”
• Who’s and Whose: “Who’s” is a contraction of “who is.” If who is doesn’t make sense, then use “whose.”
• Than and Then: When comparing use “than,” and in all other instances, use “then.”
• Enormity: Caution: Do not confuse “enormity” with “enormous.” Enormity means “evil” and does not associate with the size of something. “The enormity of our marketing campaign” doesn’t refer to how enormous the campaign is—it refers to it as evil.
• Elicit and Illicit: “Elicit” is the process of evoking something. You want to elicit a response from consumers with a marketing campaign. “Illicit” means illegal. Your business wants to avoid illicitly acquiring products.
Which sentence is incorrect?
1. “That movie has such an inspirational effect.”
2. “Are you going to bring me to the movie?”
3. “Their home over there in the woods is the one they’re talking about.”
4. “The man from the DBPR has been very helpful to Bob, Mary, and me.”
Which sentence is incorrect?
1. “It’s the full moon that causes residents to go off their medication.”
2. “The Capitol building is at the Florida State Capital, Tallahassee.”
3. “Whose car is parked in the grass?”
4. “Who’s car is parked in the grass?”
Which statement is correct?
1. “The enormity of our marketing campaign to elicit the proxies literally took your breath away.”
2. “The enormous marketing campaign to illicit the proxies literally took your breath away.”
3. “The enormity of our mar-keting campaign to illicit the proxies could have taken your breath away.”
4. “The enormous marketing campaign to elicit the proxies could have taken your breath away.”
How are you doing so far with your effective business communications?