Dana  Bristol-Smith

Article Summary:

Simple steps to help you write and sound like the professional you are.

How To Sound Professional

Do you let words spill out of your mouth out of habit, then wish you could take them back?

Last week, in our Essential Communication Skills workshop, the group was brainstorming a list of words they frequently hear mispronounced.

See if these, hmm, words sound familiar to you:

gunna = going to
coulda = could have
shoulda = should have
unnerstan = understand
ta = to
gimme = give me
thinkin = thinking
gotta = got to

In written communication, we'd never get away with spelling words the same as we speak them. However, it's no surprise to find out from Stephanie Eubanks, our business writing expert, that she finds that many business professionals use the wrong words in their written business communications.

Let's reflect on that for a moment.

What kind of message are you sending to your employees, customers, and senior management if you are misusing words? I'll take a guess here and say, probably not the message that you want to.

So what can you do?

We suggest that you become more aware of both your written and spoken communications. Here are five practical steps you can take to improve how you look and sound in person and on paper.

Five Steps to Improve How You Look and Sound in Person and on Paper

1. Rehearse important communications out loud
Practice builds confidence. Do you spend time to rehearse important communications? You only get one chance to make an important presentation--only one chance to make a positive impression. Athletes practice, pianists practice, politicians practice. You need to practice too.

2. Use two sets of eyes
Find a colleague/buddy who can be your second set of eyes. Ask your colleague to proofread important written communications. This is not admitting to a deficiency on your part - it is incorporating continuous improvement into your writing process. It says that you are human (to err is human) and you are not afraid to ask for assistance.

3. Tape record a conversation or presentation (with permission, of course!)
Listen to the tape and listen to your pronunciation. Listen for filler words too. Write a list of the filler words you hear or know that you use. I have to caution you, you might not hear your fillers or mispronunciations because you know what you intended to say. Enlist the help of your buddy's ears too.

4. Keep a dictionary handy
Make sure you are using the right word in the right place. Look up words that you read that you are unfamiliar with.

5. Expand your vocabulary
With an expanded vocabulary you have more words to choose from so that you can use your words with precision. I recommend the book Verbal Advantage by Charles Harrington Elster. Mr. Elster refers to numerous studies that have shown that there is a correlation between career and financial success and an above-average vocabulary, and that the level of success people achieve is linked to the number of words they command.

I hope this review has been helpful. Here's to you using the right word, at the right time, in the right place--so you look and sound as professional on paper and in person as you really are!

Dana Bristol-Smith is the founder of Speak for Success, an organization that works with companies that want their people to communicate with confidence and credibility. She is the author of Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking interactive manual. Dana works primarily with managers, sales and technical professionals and has delivered presentations and training to more than 100,000 people since 1992. For more information, visit Speakforsuccess.net

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