Friday, March 03, 2017

Avoid These Written and Spoken Credibility Killers

Not sure if it’s the weather, the financial markets or the volatile geo-political climate, but, many of you have been hunkering down lately to do some deep reflection and writing. Bravo. We know most of you don’t make your living as wordsmiths, so we’re pleased to see how many of you are blogging or writing articles, newsletters, eBooks, white papers and more.

This type of short-form writing is one of the most effective ways to position yourself as a thought leader. Just make sure your followers aren’t distracted but some of the most common author (and speaker) credibility killers.

You work hard to burnish your reputation from your office setting, to your professional bio, to your website, to your LinkedIn profile. Then wham, you lose your focus when writing, speaking or presenting. The danger is, you never know who might be reading, listening or overhearing.

Don’t pollute the personal space of others

Here’s a conversation I overheard at a recent conference between two professional women--not teenage girls--who were lamenting the cold temperature in the auditorium: “Oh my God! Why do they always blast the AC in these places?” complained one. “It is what it is,” replied her companion, sighing.…… “Brrrrr. Tell me about it,” said the first.…... “Brrrr. I know, right?” replied the other. “Brrrr. Really,” added her friend.

It’s like being forced to overhear a stranger’s embarrassing cell-phone conversation. There are better ways to make small talk in a professional setting. You don’t want to be accused of eavesdropping, but your personal space is being invaded and you’re not forming a very positive impression of the yakkers you are overhearing. Chances are they are highly accomplished professionals who are attending the conference for the same reasons you are. But you only get one chance to make a first impression, and they didn’t make a good one on you. It’s not likely you’re going to network with them.

*** Work life getting too complex? Take our 10-second insta-poll and find out how you stack up to your peers.

I’m telling you why you shouldn’t trust me

To be perfectly honest with you, if you can’t chose the right words, don’t fill the space with empty verbiage. Wait a minute. Run for the hills if someone keeps using the phrase “to be perfectly honest with you.” Why? Because their credibility is shot. Whether you’re in a restaurant, in a car dealership or in a tense business negotiation, when someone says to you, “to be perfectly honest with you,” it implies they’ve been lying to you up until this point. Inc. Magazine recently published a list of 15 other phrases that make people mistrust you. It’s a great piece, but in all honesty, you have to navigate through an annoying slider to get to each one of the fifteen.

For all intents and purposes, people are lacking in confidence and conviction, not just integrity, when they resort to phrases like “to be perfectly honest with you.” Speaking of “for all intents and purposes,” that one gets butchered frequently, too. How many times have you seen it written as spoken as “for all intensive purposes?“  Ouch!

In fact, we’re betting that 85 percent of you would admit you need to improve your written and spoken communication skills…..notice we wrote 85 percent, not “85%.”Many of you are numbers people, but please, use the percent sign “%”sparingly. It’s best used inside charts or when describing parenthetical ratios, such as “nearly three out of five investors (59.5%) feel they are unprepared for retirement.”
Speaking of numerical relationships and trendlines, how many of you say something went from this number to that number? Sounds logical, but the preferred way to express a numerical change over time is to/from.

EXAMPLE: Don’t write: “The fund’s rate of return increased from 7.7 percent in 2015, to 9.8 percent in 2016. Instead, it should be: “The fund’s rate of return increased to 9.8 percent in 2016 from 7.7 percent in 2015. When in doubt, go present first, past second.
So, next time you really want to convey your point to your readers or listeners. Oops, there’s another flag. This one’s on me and I fall into this trap often.

Let’s take the innocent looking word “so.” Kill it as a sentence starter from your written and spoken vocabulary. According to communications coach Sabina Nawaz. Starting with “so” implies that you’re tentatively asking for permission. You don’t need to waste time and bandwidth clearing your throat. Just get right to the point. You’re an expert. You don’t have to qualify your remarks.


Again, we’re not here to be your high school English teachers. But, the sloppy written and spoken word has become an epidemic in today’s tweeting, texting, too-busy-to-think before-I-send world in which we live.

If you have a lot to share with the world and don’t have the time to codify it, there are plenty of excellent writing coaches, ghost-writers and content collaborators around. They can help you clarify your thought and get your expertise swiftly from your brain to the published page or screen. Many have technical expertise in personal finance, tax, insurance, business succession planning and medical topics. Contact us any time and we’ll be happy to assist.


TAGS: conversation killers, top business writing mistakes, phrases that make people mistrust you

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