Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blame it on the Sentence

If you are business professional, you understand the importance of having good communication skills. Whether you are writing a book, a blog article, or an e-mail, your readers draw conclusions from the thoughts you put down into an electronic or paper format.

After you commit your thoughts to a physical form, a reader has to pick them up. Sometimes in this process, your message gets slightly garbled. While it may not seem obvious, the way you structure a sentence can place blame on somebody or even onto yourself.

Consider, for example, that you jot down the simple statement, "Somebody left the garden hose on last night." The purpose of that message clearly seems to be on the sentence's subject, some unnamed culprit who forgot to turn off the water.

And perhaps you really want to make that point. However, to avoid a connotation of blame, you could have organized the sentence to not have an active subject: "The garden hose was left on last night." In the reader's mind, this changes the whole purpose of your message; your focus is now on the event, not on any particular individual.

In business, we often need to tread lightly when writing about negative events that need to be addressed and resolved. If our communication seems to just point a finger at another human, we typically then have to spend time proving guilt when the accused goes on the defensive, recanting our statement, and/or apologizing to that person. We might even have to remove spitballs from our hair. Regardless, we end up losing sight of the real issue at hand.

Keeping sentence structure in mind can also help you prevent damaging your own image in other ways. Sometimes, we unwittingly write sentences so that they point a finger right back at us as culprits even if we are not guilty.

If you write, for example, "I had a performance issue yesterday in my computer program," the reader is likely to assume that you are to blame just because of the sentence structure.

Had you written, "Yesterday, there was a performance issue in my computer program," then the reader would probably not consider you to be at fault, either consciously or subconsciously.

Be careful how you structure sentences; you might cause yourself grief by blaming somebody or even yourself. And is that water I hear running? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, what?

About Me

My photo

I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.