Communication is as important to our lives as food and air. Every day you exchange ideas with other people. Sometimes the exchanges are spoken. At other times, they are written.
This information is important to you and/or to someone else.
But miscommunication is all too common.
Have you arrived at a doctor’s office and been told you have no appointment scheduled on that day?
Have you opened a package from Amazon expecting to find a size medium dress and finding instead a size small?
In both examples, someone miscommunicated.
We can avoid much miscommunication by following these rules.
- Know what it is you want to say.
As a speaker, you want to communicate clearly, politely and accurately.
Evaluate these sentences for clarity, politeness and accuracy.
- Charles said Tom left his book in the science lab.
- Your repairperson visited my office last week and spilled black toner on the carpet. What are you going to do about it?
- The Bible says cleanliness is next to godliness.
- Sentence number one cannot be clearly understood. Whose book was left in the science lab? Was it Charles’s book or Tom’s book?
- Sentence number two fails to meet the goal of being polite. It may be true that a repairperson created a stain on your carpet. But your tone is accusatory and offensive.
Your goal here should be to communicate a problem and request a solution. Consider this structure instead: After your repairperson left my office last week, I noticed some spilled toner on the carpet. Will you please arrange to have the spot removed?
- Sentence number three violates the most important rule of all. It is not accurate. Nowhere in the Bible will you read that cleanliness is next to godliness.
- Compose your sentence in your mind before you speak it or write it.
Have you begun a sentence and then stopped midway through it, suspecting you are about to make a grammar error?
This is embarrassing and can happen to anyone. Think before speaking.
- Should you say, “Mom loves Aunt Sara more than me,” or “Mom loves Aunt Sara more than I?”
That depends upon the comparison you are making.
If you want to indicate your mom loves both you and Aunt Sara, but she loves Aunt Sara more, you will say, “Mom loves Aunt Sara more than me.” (more than she loves me)
If you want to indicate both you and your mom love Aunt Sara, but your mom’s love for Aunt Sara is greater than your love for her, you will say: “Mom loves Aunt Sarah more than I.” (more than I love her)
- Which one of these sentence structures is correct? “Alex and myself cleaned the whiteboard,” or “Alex and I cleaned the whiteboard,” or “Me and Alex cleaned the whiteboard”?
The correct structure is, “Alex and I cleaned the whiteboard.”
You can master this rule by omitting the other person’s name and reading the sentence as if you are the only person involved.
“Alex and I cleaned the whiteboard.”
You would say, “I cleaned the whiteboard.” The addition of another person’s name does not affect the pronoun you use to refer to yourself.
Here is another similar sentence. Would you say, “The teacher gave a world map to Anne and I,” or “The teacher gave a world map to Anne and me”?
Again, omit the other person’s name and read the sentence as if only you are involved. “The teacher gave a world map to Anne and me.”
You would say, “The teacher gave a world map to me.”
- Remember you can dodge difficult issues.
If you question the correct structure of a sentence, reword the sentence in another way more comfortable for you.
- If you are uncertain about this sentence, “Rebecca and (I or me) are going to the concert,” choose to relay the information in a different way, one you know is correct.
“I am going to the concert. Rebecca is also going.”
- If you are uncertain about this sentence, “We are meeting at the (Jones’ or Jonses’) house,” say instead:
“We are meeting at the house where Mr. and Mrs. Jones live.”
Using the English language correctly is difficult. No one wants to be embarrassed by using it incorrectly. You can become more comfortable with our language by learning a few rules at a time.
If you determine what it is you want to say, compose your sentence in your mind before you say it, and remember you can dodge iffy situations, you will have made steps toward becoming more fluent in our English language.