A common misconception is that English has many tenses. In fact, it only has two: the present tense and the past tense. There is no future tense in English. Read more
One consequence of living in an information-saturated world is that everyone tunes out more. We pay little or no attention to most of the messages that come our way. So if you want people to pay attention to the e-mails you send out, then you have to learn to get through. Read more
In the last few articles we have looked at the 3V’s connected with communication (Vocal, Verbal and Visual), different styles of listening, communication styles and those of your customers, managers and colleagues. This time we will give you some practical tips, techniques and strategies to add to your knowledge base on communicating with confidence. Read more
Take a look at the following sentences and put the words in brackets in the spaces provided. There are more words than spaces!! Read more
There are many different ways to build rapport with your customers. Read more
In using Latin abbreviations or Latin in written work you must be confident that they are in common usage and will be recognised by the reader. For example, a.m. & p.m. are common abbreviations for ante meridian & post meridian (or meridiem.). Most of us are unaware of the derivation from the Latin, but the abbreviation is common knowledge. Read more
You hand in the technical report that you have been preparing for your boss for the last week. You were working until the early hours and just finished for the Friday morning deadline. Unfortunately these are the comments that your boss makes after lunch on Friday. Read more
Think of a time when you were a happy customer. Think of the reasons why. Often, it will relate to how the staff you dealt with made you feel. Read more
Being able to contribute effectively in meetings is an important skill in business. There are a range of skills required depending on your role, whether it be as a chairperson, minute-taker or participant. Read more
I recently found a book by the writer Adam Jacot de Boinod called The Meaning of Tingo. As a native speaker of English, I was a bit confused. I had never heard of this word ‘tingo’,and was curious about the title of the book. Read more
I’m currently working at one of Malaysia’s leading universities on a course designed to assist lecturers in getting published in academic journals.
Publications are, of course, a prerequisite for academic life and can be a key to tenure and promotion. The domination of English in academia means that most of the leading journals are published in English. I present this not as a good or bad thing, but a fact of life. This is also true in the international business world where company reports, strategy papers and other key documents are generally in English. Read more
Last week we looked at assertiveness. One of the key techniques is being able to say “no”! Learning how to say no can be hard, but it’s something that can really help you be more productive, reduce stress and do a better job with the things you do say ‘yes’ to. Saying no to some things can actually help everyone involved. Read more
From my days at school in the UK, the rules of the usage of the comma have been drummed into me. Mistakes were often accompanied with the slap of a ruler designed to make sure the rules stuck. Read more
We looked last week at some basic telephone language. One of the most common uses of the telephone is to make an appointment. Even with the wonders of emails, video conferencing and the old fashioned phone, many professionals still prefer the face-to-face meeting to solve issues and maintain good relationships with clients. Read more
At some time in your business career you are likely to have to give a presentation, this may be a formal presentation at a conference, a more informal talk to staff or a short presentation as part of a meeting. Read more
Most presentations will require some form of visuals to explain or highlight key points that you are making. These could be PowerPoint slides, flip charts or OHP slides. Visual aids can help clarify abstract points, and help your audience remember the content of your presentation. However, they should enhance your presentation and not be a substitute for it. Read more
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. Read more
Consider these three sentences:
1. The Prime Minister opened the Seremban substation on 14 May, 1988.
2. The Seremban substation was opened by the Prime Minister on 14 May, 1988.
3. The Seremban substation was opened on 14 May, 1988.
You will notice that the first sentence has an active structure with the verb opened (past simple), while examples 2 and 3 contain passive structures. In this case, both are simple past passive which is formed with was + past participle. Read more
The English language requires us to believe in parallel universes or alternate possible worlds. Take the sentence:
If I was rich, I’d buy a penthouse.
This sentence expresses the idea that there is a possible world where I am rich and therefore invest in a penthouse.
This structure is known as the second conditional and has the form:
If + subject + past simple, subject + would (’d)+ verb
If I was rich, would buy a penthouse
To make sense of this sentence, we need to understand the idea of counterfactuals. These are sentences that express states of affairs that differ from actual reality. Read more
This paragraph is not ordinary. Look at it. At first, it won’t look too odd. Just a normal paragraph – you may think. But look at it again and you might find it a bit unusual. Just a tiny bit. What’s wrong with it, you may ask? Nothing wrong at all, in fact, as I said, it’s just slightly unusual. It’s difficult to put it in words. Look again. Is anything not right? Can you spot it? Is anything . . . missing?
What you’ve just read is a lipogram – a text written without using a particular letter of the alphabet. It's the hardest kind of lipogram, as it doesn’t contain the letter E – the most common letter in the English language. Try writing one yourself, even a few sentences, and you’ll see it's pretty difficult. Now imagine the task faced by the French writer Georges Perec, when a friend challenged him to write a whole novel without using E – a letter that is even more common in French than in English. Read more
One of the surprise bestsellers of Christmas 2003 in Britain was Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss. The book’s title was taken from a joke about a panda walking into a café. The panda eats a sandwich, fires a gun in the air and walks towards the door. When the waiter asks in confusion what he thinks he’s doing, the panda throws him a badly punctuated book on wildlife: “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves”. Read more
Sometime in the first 500 years, there was a shift in the grammatical patterns of English. Believe it or not, grammar could have been much worse than it is today! Read more
Many people seem to think that English has a single future tense (will), but in fact there are a variety of ways to talk about the future. The choice of structure is not really about time, but instead reflects the attitude of the speaker. Read more
One of the key definitions of an advanced speaker of English is the ability to use idiomatic or less common expressions. For example, the public version of the Speaking band descriptors for IELTS refers to the use of less common and idiomatic vocabulary as a feature of bands 7 to 9. Band 9 is native speaker level, and 7 and 8 would generally allow you to study at an Undergraduate/Graduate level. Read more
First impressions are formed in the first 2-4 minutes of a communication exchange (face-to-face, on the phone, even in writing) so it is important to make the most of the opportunity. Read more
After much consideration it has been decided that, due to the unforeseen circumstances that occurred last month, the need for additional security placements at the various entrances including the west and east will be implemented in accordance with company guidelines and that all staff are instructed to ensure compliance and instruct all visitors of the new policy and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
The sentence above is 63 words. The individual words are understandable, but the sheer length and sidetracks that the writer goes down makes it difficult to follow. There are a number of main and sub-points in the sentence and it requires too much concentration on the part of the reader. In a world where we are bombarded with information in the form of memos, emails and letters, it is more than likely that the message will be ignored. Read more
Common problems in English arise out of the similarity of many of the words. For example, if halfway through a film you say "I'm boring", your date may reply "Yes, you are" and it is unlikely the rest of the evening will be a success. Read more
The use of the modal “will” is a major problem for users of English. Here are a few examples:
a) It will rain today.
b) The CEO will visit us tomorrow.
c) I will send you the proposal tomorrow.
d) The meeting will be starting in a few minutes.
e) They left three hours ago, so they will have arrived by now.
Before you have a look at the answers explained below, have a think about the usage of “will” in these cases. Some reflect the time, but often modals reflect the attitude of the speaker. Read more
Slang is misunderstood. Let’s get one thing out of the way from the outset – ‘‘slang’’ refers to a particular type of informal spoken or written phrases. Street language, if you like. It has absolutely nothing to do with pronunciation or accent. Read more