Category Archives: 4. Classroom Exercises

Avoiding Misuse of You

When you write, reserve you for direct address. That is, use you only when you are addressing the reader of your message, for instance, in an e-mail to a specific recipient or when writing instructions for an assumed audience:  You will find references at the end of the book. Avoid the impersonal you in situations that require specific words identifying people, situations, or occurrences.

Poor:           You must pass several exams before being allowed to practice accounting.
[Here you is impersonal: The reader is not necessarily a future accountant.]

Improved
: Future CPAS must pass several exams before being allowed to practice.

Rephrase the sentences below to avoid the impersonal you.

  1. If you are a healthcare employer, you should consult OSHA publications to learn about workplace safety to help avoid common accidents.
  2. You can add veterinary coverage for employees’ pets to infuse more compassion into your benefits packages.
  3. You may not achieve salary parity with men if you don’t advocate for pay equity.
  4. Interning at a legal firm can give you an advantage if you want to pursue a career as an attorney.
  5. Using platitudes and clichés when giving a talk can make you sound insincere.
  6. When Bleinheim LLC was hiring, the firm required you to take a series of psychological tests to determine if you would fit into the corporate culture.
  7. Before the writing seminar, you were supposed to complete a self-assessment form.
  8. To improve an organization’s culture, you can ask your Human Relations director to develop workshops or one-on-one coaching for management positions.
  9. If you ask for an accommodation due to a medical condition, you may be able to telecommute.
  10. You have to be careful about pre-judging others, especially if you work for an organization that deals with different kinds of customers.

Avoiding Misuse of You Key 

Use the Oxford Comma for Clarity

[Instructors: Download PDFs of the exercise and exercise key at the end of the post.]

Careful writers use commas to separate three or more equal elements (words, phrases, or short clauses) in a series. To ensure separation of the last two elements, always use a comma before the conjunction in a series, known as the Oxford comma.

The event committee was meeting to discuss guests, invitations, venues, and costs.      [commas in a series of words]

Agenda items included a report on hiring practices, discussion about open positions, and review of the previous week’s e-mail blast. [commas in a series of phrases]

Marketing will focus on creating the messages, production will mock up a sample, and         sales will devise a distribution list. [commas in a series of clauses]

Correct the punctuation in the sentences below.

  1. Among those attending were two interns, Tim Cook and Bill Gates.
  2. When hiring, the manager looks for candidates who possess strong communication skills, two years of experience and a bachelor’s degree.
  3. The company is cutting costs by addressing waste, overtime and supplies.
  4. The study found that new-hires were most interested in upward mobility, current employees cared most about benefits and retirees had concerns about pension stability.
  5. The book was dedicated to his parents, Mariah Carey and LL Cool J.
  6. To plan for retirement, new workers should open an IRA, save to create a cushion and consult a financial planner.
  7. Because small companies do not have a large workforce, employees have the opportunity to be more versatile, work on new skills and grow in unexpected ways.
  8. The meeting was so poorly run that attendees left confused, irritated, and hungry.
  9. Issuing smartphones to staff allows an organization to monitor employee communication, ensure compliance with policies and check access to electronic systems.
  10. Women working in male-dominated industries such as construction or technology often face hazing, harassment and inequality.
  11. Public relations relies on many components including social media to connect with stakeholders, websites to provide information about the organization and events to engage with investors.
  12. When interviewing for a new job, applicants should arrive 15 minutes early, bring a résuméand prepare questions.
  13. The position requires an individual with experience in advocacy, a background in science and desire to effect change.
  14. To stand out in a new position, an employee should show focus, enthusiasm and integrity.
  15. Highlights from the global tour included encounters with Angela Merkel, a five-ton elephant and an exotic weapon collector.

OxfordCommaExercise

Oxford CommaExerciseKey

Six Verbs to Avoid at Work

Instructors: Download the exercise and its key at the end of this post.


What you say and how you say it matters in the workplace. The verbs below can make a speaker sound tentative or weak and should therefore be avoided.

Think               Makes the speaker sound unsure

Need               Infers dependence

Want               Connotes emotion rather than rationality

Guess              Suggests tentativeness or lack of commitment

Hope               Indicates a lack of control over the outcome

Suppose          Shows indifference and a lack of engagement


Change the verbs in the sentences below to show a more confident attitude.

  1. I think we should meet to discuss the allocation of duties to complete this detailed project.
  2. Although I’m working on this project alone, I need your input so I can complete the sales numbers.
  3. I want you to assess the potential benefits of this technology in a written report to me before we think about implementing the technology.
  4. I guess I could complete my portion by next Tuesday.
  5. I sure hope your team will be able to adjust the scale model.
  6. I suppose we could go to the site and check it one more time before we break ground.
  7. I think I could improve the website’s interface to make it more seamless and user friendly.
  8. I need to understand the analytic-driven solutions that will affect hiring.
  9. I want you to rewrite the social media strategy before employees have questions about connecting with customers on Twitter and Facebook.
  10. I guess we could put together a short workshop that helps employees understand the new benefits package.
  11. We hope to make employee referrals part of formal recruitment.
  12. Do you suppose you could complete that online training session by the end of the week?

Answer Key

  1. Let’s meet to discuss the allocation of duties to complete this detailed project.
  2. Although I’m working on this project alone, your input will help me complete the sales numbers.
  3. Please assess the potential benefits of this technology in a written report to me before we think about implementing it.
  4. Of course I can complete my portion by next Tuesday.
  5. It’s crucial to the success of this project for your team to adjust the scale model.
  6. We’ll go to the site and check it one more time before we break ground.
  7. I could improve the website’s interface to make it more seamless and user friendly.
  8. Your knowledge will help me understand the analytic-driven solutions that will affect hiring.
  9. Please rewrite the social media strategy before employees have questions about connecting with customers on Twitter and Facebook.
  10. We could put together a short workshop that helps employees understand the new benefits package.
  11. We will make employee referrals part of formal recruitment.
  12. Online training sessions must be completed by the end of the week.

Six Verbs to Avoid–Exercise

Six Verbs to Avoid at Work-Answer Key