Direct Marketing Article
Write Intelligently in Your Corporate
Communication: Three Tips
By Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
Throughout the business community, ambitious individuals who work in highly
competitive environments know the impression they give in their business
communications often makes the difference between career failure and
When you make the following grammar mistakes, you will sound less
intelligent than you actually are. Effective communication, both in speaking
and writing, make an important and significant impression. Most likely, your
English teacher gave you the following advice. In case you have forgotten,
here are three business communication tips to improve the impression you
make to your prospects, clients, and senior executives.
Tip #1 - Use Pronouns Properly
How often do you hear people say the following comments?
The owner promoted him and I.
The client took Sally and he to lunch.
That's very important to we commuters.
Pronouns change when they play different roles in a sentence. Note that
"you" and "it" stay the same, however you use them.
Pronoun Same Pronoun
Used as Subject Used as Object
For some reason, people who aren't sure which to use can end up
overcorrecting. "I" and "he" sound more elegant, so these people come up
with sentences like the first three examples above. The most confusion seems
to arise when there are two people receiving the action. The simplest
technique is to eliminate the one that isn't a pronoun to see if the
sentence "sounds right."
WRONG: The owner promoted him and I. ("The owner promoted I")
RIGHT: The owner promoted him and me.
WRONG: The client took Sally and he to lunch. ("The client took he to
RIGHT: The client took Sally and him to lunch.
WRONG: That's very important to we commuters. ("That's very important to
RIGHT: That's very important to us commuters.
Tip #2 - Be Wise with Who and Whom
To know which to use, substitute "he" for "who" (both end with a vowel) and
"him" for "whom" (both end with M) while you figure out what is acting on
what. For example:
I know he paid him.
I know who paid whom.
Even people who master this trick can get confused when who/whom is used in
a question. Simply turn the question around into a statement and follow the
To who/whom are you speaking?
STATEMENT: You are speaking to he/him.
Who/whom are you going to call?
STATEMENT: You are going to call he/him.
The correct choice is "him," so you would substitute with "whom."
"Whom" almost always follows a preposition, those words that transfer action
from one thing to another. Words like to, from, for, in, and out.
Tip #3 - Watch Your Language with Lay and Lie
Unless you're lucky enough to be multi-lingual, English is the main tool you
use to transmit your ideas to others. Yet you don't need a Harvard degree to
sound intelligent. It's just a matter of mastering a few tricks, aka grammar
Let's consider "to lay" and "to lie." The first verb transmits or transfers
its action to something (transitive), while the other doesn't
(intransitive). There's also "to lie," meaning to fib, which further muddies
In school you probably confronted dozens of charts showing how lay, laid,
lie and lie work when describing the past, present, future, singular and
plural (a process called conjugation). Instead of memorizing charts, here's
a four-line verse to remember that will make you a master of these tricky
Yesterday, Todd lay in bed.
We laid an icepack on his head.
Today he lies beneath the sod.
We lay a wreath to honor Todd.
When Ken Burns' 1990 documentary, The Civil War, first aired, many viewers
commented on the astonishingly literate and grammatically perfect letters
written home by soldiers who had no formal schooling beyond the age of ten
or twelve. In the nineteenth century, education was a serious and intensive
process, and people were expected to continue learning all their lives
through reading, conversation, and study.
As a professional, you are constantly working to educate others, sharing
your ideas and expertise. One additional gift you can offer your listeners
and readers is clear, powerful language.
Hopefully, you found these grammar tips practical, educational, and
entertaining. Written and verbal communication should never be boring.
Before you send that intelligent-sounding email, letter, or proposal,
remember to check it at least once for grammar and spelling errors. Many
executives continue to be surprised by obvious mistakes in the corporate
communications they receive.
Whether you own a business, report to a boss, or search for a job, it is
important to sound intelligent in all your corporate communication. Never
underestimate the power of your words. Words and correct grammar give you a
About the Author:
Patricia Fripp CSP, CPAE, is Hall of Fame keynote speaker, executive speech
coach and sales presentation skills trainer and keynote speaker on sales,
effective presentation skills and executive communication skills. She works
with companies large and small, and individuals from the C-Suite to the work
floor. She builds leaders, transforms sales teams and delights audiences.
She is the author or co-author of five books including "Speaker's Edge -
Secrets and Strategies for Connecting with Any Audience," and is
Past-President of the National Speakers Association. To learn more about
having Patricia do her magic for you, contact her at