In this world of startlingly rapid change, it is increasingly difficult to keep up to date with all the changes that are occurring to the English language as new words and phrases enter the language. For the contemporary businessman the need to stay current is crucial and much of this is due to the pace of technological change. The need to know if you have been “bluejacked (1)” or if your company practices “sonic branding (2)” shows your colleagues, customers and competition that you are at the cutting edge. You can’t rely on traditional paper dictionaries in order to keep up to date since by their very nature the research needed to produce a new version makes them out-of-date before they are even printed. For example, “pod casting(3)” and “wake(4)” although currently the hot topics in tech magazines will not filter into dictionaries for the next few years and by then they will be superseded by the next craze. Even the spell check on your computer won’t currently recognize them.
So for those of you concerened that your spoken language is growing increasingly past its sell-by-date here are a few tips to keep your vocabulary finely tuned and modern: -
- Record a new word a day from the newspaper, magazine and/or business press
- Make sure you record the word properly. Remember to really know a word, you need to understand its pronunciation, written form, compounds (e.g. wiki, wikitext and wikisite) and a sample sentence to see how it is used in context
- Look out for the techie programmers on BBC and/or CNN. If the word has reached these organizations you can guarantee it has a fairly high penetration rate generally.
- Use wordcards to remember the new vocabulary with a translation or explanation on the other side. Carry to work and flip through the cards when you have a spare moment. Remember to shuffle so you don’t remember the sequence
- Use of mnemonics to remember new words is a proven method of expanding your vocabulary. These are best when you use self-created visual clues to remember a word. For example, bluejacked could be remembered with the image of a boy called Jack overhearing a telephone call while feeling blue about a lost love. The more bizarre the image the easier to remember the word!!
(Not sure if below should be part of or a separate article and/or exercise)
A related phenomenon is the need to get rid of some of those phrases you were taught at school or university designed to create the perfect business letter. If you are a thirty something executive then it is quite likely that the English guide you studied at school for writing letters was probably compiled before your parents were born. It takes a long time for English reference books to be researched, written and published. Even longer for a school board to adopt and ages for them to decide to update.
Look at the phrases below and see how many you think are appropriate for the modern business letter.
- I acknowledge receipt of
- awaiting the favour of your early response
- please furnish details
- please be good enough to advise us
- in compliance with your request
All of the above come from dated manuals on writing and should be avoided in contemporary business writing.. Even emails, supposedly more contemporary and less constrained by convention can often contain examples of old-fashioned English. . Many emails ask the receiver to “revert to” the sender rather than the simpler and more contemporary “get back to me”. Anyway, here are the contemporary alternatives:-
- I have received/Thank you for…………
- I look forward to hearing from you.
- please send me details
- please tell us
- as you requested
(Above phrases of old fashioned and modern equivalents could be redesigned as a matching exercise, which would make the exercise more interactive and fun!! + shorter)
- bluejacked- receiving an anonymous text messages from another person’s mobile.
- Sonic branding-a specific sound associated with a product or brand
- Podcasting-method of publishing audio programs via the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed of new files (usually mp3s)
- Wiki-a website that any user can enter and edit (e.g. wikipedia)