Friday, June 7, 2013

Write well, get ahead

It's been said many times: how you speak and write affects your success at work. 

The fact that you can use a calculator doesn't mean you know accounting. The fact that you've been writing all your life doesn't mean you do it well. Trust me: I write for a living, and I measure the time in decades, yet I can make some awful mistakes.

Bryan Garner, who has written several books on writing, enters the fray. People see your language as a reflection of your competence, he writes.
Make lots of mistakes in your e-mails, reports, and other documents, and you'll come across as uneducated and uninformed. Others will hesitate to trust your recommendation to launch a resource-intensive project, for example, or to buy goods or services. They'll think you don't know what you're talking about.
He gets right into one of the most common mistakes -- one whose frequency surprises me.
Certain errors will predictably get you in trouble: "Just keep this matter between you and I," for instance, and "Tom and her will run the meeting."
Write instead: "Just keep this matter between you and me." And: "She and Tom will run the meeting." 
The rule, very simply, is that I, we, he, she, and they are subjects of clauses — as in "Leslie and Iwere delighted to work with you." Me, us, him, her, and them are objects of either verbs or prepositions: "You might want to consult with Leslie and me." In the compound phrasings, try leaving out Leslie and — and you'll know the correct form immediately.
He has other examples, but let me suggest that if you can master the I/me challenge, you'll be making the world a better place. And I will give you the afternoon off.

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