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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


5.29.2012

Is Your Diction Affecting Your Professional Image?


A participant in a recent communication seminar told me about her experience in another training session, where the instructor used the phrase “All’s you gotta do.” After she heard that phrase, she stopped listening.

In the above example, the instructor’s use of language detracted from his message. It may not be fair, but people often judge others on the quality of their diction. They may make negative assumptions about someone’s intelligence or education, based on that person’s word choice.

We may pick up the use of these nonstandard words from their use in marketing or creative fields. Think about the song I Gotta Feeling from the Black Eyed Peas, and its well-known line: I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night. Though I like the song, I would not encourage the use of gotta and gonna when speaking to others.

Recently I heard the following phrases used in business:

· Are youse finished with the project? Use just you. The word you is both singular and plural in the English language.

· Didya get to the meeting on time? Use did you.

· All’s you gotta do. According to an article in the New York Times, all’s started off as a contraction of all as, but it is generally considered a substandard word today. Instead of all’s, use all, and instead of gotta, use have to.

· I'm gonna get it for you. Use I’m going to or I am going to.

What do you think? Do you use any of the above expressions? Please don’t tell me you don’t use these phrases until you really know that is accurate. Years ago, I found out I was using gonna, and didn’t realize it until someone pointed it out to me.

Start monitoring yourself and find out about your use of language. You can use your voicemail system to listen to your messages before you send them, to gain awareness of your diction. Let me know what you discover.

Previous blogs also discuss language: Do You Belittle Yourself? Three Things Not To Say in a Presentation and Word Choice Etiquette: I Think You Should Avoid "I Think."

Pachter’s communication seminars and coaching sessions also empower professionals to use language to their advantage. Contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com for more information.

22 comments:

  1. As always with Barbara Pachter, this advice is sage, useful, and easy to apply. Classic Pachter.

    "Start monitoring yourself and find out about your use of language. You can use your voicemail system to listen to your messages before you send them, to gain awareness of your diction."

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    Replies
    1. Hi Joe, Nice to hear from you! Thanks for your kind words.

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  2. Anonymous5/30/2012

    From A Reader:
    This is terrific information! I know I am guilty of using some of these slang terms without even realizing it. I live in the South where the term Y'all comes into play often. This is a very difficult habit to break and I know it is important to do so. Thanks so much for sharing this information Ms. Barbara!

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    Replies
    1. I'm ambivalent about this suggestion, especially after living in southern Maryland for the past two years. The word "y'all" is a regionalism; it's informal but not necessarily objectionable.

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  3. Anonymous5/30/2012

    From A Reader:
    Slang words or ways of speech better known as "filler words" has become so common even among adults and especially in teens. I try to point this out to students in presentations. I encourage them to begin to cut back on the slang and speak properly.

    I read book about improving one's presentation skills that taping ourselves while practicing a presentation can alert us to any areas of bad diction or modulation as Didi suggested.

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  4. Anonymous5/30/2012

    From A Reader:
    Accurate diction is really important. It is difficult to tell clients that it is an area they need to work on because they aren't aware of how they sound to others. We should all listen to ourselves from time to time to make sure we haven't gotten lazy with not only diction, but modulation.

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  5. Anonymous5/30/2012

    From A Reader:
    It's amazing how the slip of the tongue can have more impact than a wonderful turn of phrase. Thanks for bringing up an important topic! I know when I misspeak, my stomach reminds me to be more thoughtful in my choice of words. Now, if it would only get the message to my brain quicker, I'd be all set.

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  6. Anonymous5/30/2012

    From A Reader:
    My pet pieve is you guys or worse: yous guys. I am not a guy!

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  7. Anonymous5/30/2012

    From A Reader:
    Thanks for bringing up this point Barbara. I think one of the least taught areas in the area of management/leadership/sales/customer service is that of the structure of language and the power of an effective voice. Anyone who has completed an NLP Practitioner program ( as against 'reading about NLP' ) would know this. Language - use of words plus a powerful and effective voice gives you an advantage in any area of life- not just in the work arena.

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  8. Anonymous5/31/2012

    From A Reader:
    Hi Barbara! I don't often hear people talk about diction in these times. Diction is the articulation of the consonant sounds of English. Diction is what makes speech clear and intelligible, meaning understandable to listeners. For instance, saying ProBaBly instead of proLLy. It is also what makes one sound intelligent. I have been teaching voice and diction for 35 years having been fortunate to be certified to teach voice and speech by Arthur Lessac who was the top voice-for-the-actor teacher in the US. What I know for sure after that many years is that people make unconscious decisions about your qualifications and credibility based on your voice and your diction. Thanks for bringing this up! I am eager to hear other's thoughts about diction!

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  9. Anonymous5/31/2012

    From A Reader:
    I agree that diction is important, and an added plus. However, few persons will invest the "The My Fair Lady" time and effort to learn proper diction.

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  10. Anonymous5/31/2012

    From A Reader:
    It's so important to combine excellent verbal skills with good manners, dress and grooming in order to provide a complete professional package. Great advice from all.

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  11. Anonymous5/31/2012

    From A Reader:
    I get the point and understand. However, some of the wisest people I've known over the years weren't the smoothest talkers. Hope your friend didn't miss anything of value when she tuned out! See, "all's you gotta do" is filter the input.

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  12. Anonymous5/31/2012

    From A Reader:
    I believe your diction ABSOLUTELY affects your professional image. Please visit my group, Proper Grammar is a Dying Breed.

    I have been in meetings when a higher-up has said "pacifically", an accountant who spelled "Forty" f-o-u-r-t-y, and a higher-up has said "oh, that's a whole nother thing."

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  13. Anonymous5/31/2012

    From A Reader:
    Barbara, I was a broadcast journalist for a time. Early on my Southern U.S. roots would periodically bloom through my newscasts or reportage, as I used my best diction to say things like "Massa-tu-setts," which is standard for pronouncing that state's name in most of the South.

    I have seen numerous very bright people from all over the map commit business/corporate suicide by setting their professional images ablaze with their lack of communications skills.

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  14. Anonymous5/31/2012

    From A Reader:
    I understand the seminar participant opting to tune out the instructor. It is very difficult to take someone seriously or believe that they have valuable information to provide even though they may. Any expert who wishes to hold seminars must be sure that they are able to communicate clearly, effectively, and intelligently.

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  15. Anonymous6/01/2012

    From A Reader:
    This is interesting Barbara...Thank you for creating the awareness.
    We all speak English,but with our own flavour ,diction, pronunciation and projection. The English say 'car' as 'carrr. The Americans roll under their tongue the 'r', it becomes 'corrr'. The Latins emphasise the 'r' as 'rrr'. The Germans say 'r' as 'airkh'. The Middle-Easterns say 'r' as 'raw'...In Mandarin there is no 'r'. Thus the Far-Eastern people like the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese have problems to pronounce 'r' and 'l'. Have you ever heard the joke about this? A waiter asked a customer from a Far-Eastern nation,"What would you like to order sir?"..The customer replied,"I would like to order 'flied lice". The waiter was perplexed..

    I agree with Barbara that the way a person speaks a language does reflect our professional image and academic background.

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  16. Anonymous6/01/2012

    From A Reader:
    I struggle with volume. I often wonder if I'm just too loud. My diction is pretty good and most of the time I can get the grammer correct but still struggle with sentence structure.

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  17. Anonymous6/04/2012

    From a Reader:
    I agree that the manner in which you speak greatly affects your image and ability to influence. This has always been a strength of mine, but I also take voiceover classes to keep sharp in this area. It is also an area in which image trainers can be very valuable to their clients.

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  18. Anonymous6/15/2012

    From A Reader:
    Wisdom & smooth talking don't go hand-in-hand.

    My critique is that any speaker must know how they come across-if the one who said "all's you gotta do" has no idea of her error, someone should tell her. She's otherwise speaking without awareness or control.

    Poor grammar can damage credibility if the speaker is presenting themselves as an intellectual expert.

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  19. Anonymous6/21/2012

    From A Reader:
    I concur! Over-enunciation is as distracting as mispronouncing.

    So a tip: record yourself delivering your speech & listen to the playback; don't get tied up in knots over this, just do it. It works.

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  20. Anonymous6/21/2012

    From A Reader:
    I'm not gonna say I don't say "gonna," because I do. And I'm aware of it. However, we also have to think about the opposite of poor diction, and that's overly formal and stilted diction. We want to come across to our audiences as approachable human beings, and sometimes overly formal speech can work against us, too.

    I think there's a middle ground where our words are enunciated and pronounced properly, but we are free to be flexible in our communication style. I find mispronounced words and poor grammar to be more distracting than colloquial expressions.

    This is another good reason to work with a coach. Your co-workers and colleagues are not going to correct your grammar and diction. It's the job of a coach to pay attention to these kinds of things and bring them to the speaker's attention.

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