Saturday, March 31, 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Readers and Questions

Last month's post garnered an unusually high number of reader emails. Thanks to those of you who sent me your comments.

In January, I examined a current-day phenomenon that is everywhere; by everywhere, I mean everywhere. My goal was to bring some needed attention to the widespread practice of asking questions within declarative sentences or statements. Why is it that many of us insert question-mark-tones into declarative statements? Is this acceptable, and what are its implications for you as a communicator?

The post resonated with you for several reasons, it seems. Today, I’ll list the top-three reasons that you gave me as to why discussing the overuse of questioning tones is timely and important to you.

Readers say:

1. It’s annoying and distracting. One reader said that he “took extra care when listening to commentators on television and radio. It was all too exasperating, and I feel that this communication problem will never end and we’ll just have to tolerate it.” Another reader observed that she was so furious with professional speakers and journalists who could not shake this tiresome habit, that she quit watching certain news and entertainment programs.

2. I am aware of it when I do it. A reader said that after observing others talking this way every day, he is more conscious of it and has significantly decreased his tendency to do just that.

3. I am more tuned in to others. One reader said that she has become more mindful of what others are trying to communicate. As a result, she is more focused on how she speaks and what she writes as well.  

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA         www.editing-expert.com 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Please Try This For Today?

I’m not sure if the title of this blog post makes any sense to you at first glance, and it may be slightly irritating. But that is precisely my point.

Today’s post is part of a series highlighting some of the most easily-fixed personal communication situations that, when changed, will have the most positive impact for you in the quickest amount of time.

Next time you’re in the following situations, pay attention to how others are talking.

You’re in a group and everyone’s chatting among themselves.

On a television program, all sorts of people are commenting on the news of the day.

Now take a 30-second flashback to your 7th Grade English class. What was one of the first things that our teachers taught us? This would be the four types of sentences.

1. Declarative. Randall writes the blog post.
2. Imperative. Randall – write the blog post right now.
3. Exclamatory. Randall is writing the blog post!
4. Interrogative. Randall is writing the blog post?

What our teachers tried to tell us is not all theoretical; it is practical advice that guides us each day as we communicate. Each type of sentence has its place and nothing is wrong with any of them—unless they’re used improperly when writing or speaking.

Go back to my earlier request about observing others talking while in a group or on television. Have you ever noticed when others end a declarative sentence with a question mark?

As in:

“That person should coordinate everything a little better?”

or

“My suggestion is to get him to clarify his policies?”


or


"I'm going to the store? And then I'm going to get some groceries?"  

How do you feel about this? Something’s not right with the above-three statements, and if we recognize the ubiquity of these declarations-turned-questions, then we are 95% along the way of helping ourselves avoid this communication mistake.

In writing or conversation, legitimate questions should end with a question mark. If you have a declarative point to make, avoid ending it with a question mark; use a period. Infrequent exceptions to this rule are ok, especially if you're trying to add a little uncertainty to your response, vary your words, or highlight the questioning tone of your statement.


When non-questions are framed as questions, they mislead, confuse the person listening to you, cause irritation with others, and give everyone the impression that you’re unsure of yourself.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA         www.editing-expert.com

Saturday, December 30, 2017

This Is Literally Someone's Opinion

While online recently, I saw the following photo of a message that's displayed in a New York bar. The owner is understandably upset at people who use the word "literally" while at his business.

Please see my August 2017 post to read my thoughts on this word.






Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA        www.editing-expert.com

Thursday, November 30, 2017

It's In The Eyes

Someone recently asked me what are a few of the most easily-fixed personal communication situations that, when changed, would have the most positive impact in the quickest amount of time?

Here’s my top suggestion: Look People In The Eyes.
When talking with others, they usually want clear and effective communication with you that includes no mumbling, evasiveness, or ambiguity.
Most of your effort falls apart, however, when you avert your eyes and look at other things while you’re talking. As a result, the person with whom you’re interacting could see you as flighty, untrustworthy, and disinterested in them or what they’re saying to you.
Avoid this misinterpretation by looking people in the eyes when talking with them.

There is no need to stare unblinkingly; just keep good eye contact with them most of the time. It helps if you focus on what the other person is saying, take a sincere interest in their point of view, and have an authentic back-and-forth conversation.
Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA        www.editing-expert.com

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Two Daily Expressions

Continuing from last month, here are two more phrases that people use—but don’t actually mean—when communicating in writing or speech.

1. Peaked my interest.
One would think that this idiom is correct because the word “peaked” is correctly spelled, and everything sounds just right. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives its meaning:
        Peaked: “being pale and wan or emaciated” or “having a point or prominent end”
Usually the message that’s being communicated is that one’s interest was awakened, provoked, or aroused. That would be the definition of “piqued.”
Correct use: piqued my interest
2. First-come, first-serve.
This idiom is frequently used in situations involving waiting in lines or being helped by those involved in customer service. For example, people who arrive first at the ticket booth are usually served first. It’s a handy statement to show who has priority in all sorts of daily situations.
It would be correct as spelled if your intent was for those who arrived first to be the first to serve others.
Correct use in most situations: first-come, first-served

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA        www.editing-expert.com

Friday, September 29, 2017

An Old Phrase

Today’s post is part of a series where I discuss statements people use—but don’t actually mean—when communicating.

During the past month, I heard this phrase used a few times, and I noticed it in print twice as spelled below.


Baited breath


As in: “I stood by the door with baited breath to see what kind of Halloween candy I was getting.”


or


“Prior to the selection of the lottery numbers, the audience sat with baited breath.”


The purpose of this idiom (which I misspelled above) is to convey how you’re feeling while waiting for something to happen. You’re in a state of high anticipation and eagerness, and you may be close to holding (or abating) your breath. It’s an archaic but useful phrase in conversation to add meaning to the suspense that you’re undergoing.

As spelled above, it might mean something related to fishing.

Instead, go with the correct spelling of bated breath.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA            www.editing-expert.com 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

So That's What I Said.

The goal of this blog has always been to look at those things that lie at the intersection of grammar and communication. Usually, I'm not too interested in the theoretical; practical situations are where it’s at for me, and I write about those things that impact our daily lives. I get my ideas from personal interactions, meetings, events, media, and readers.

Today, I want to offer two of my top-ten statements that people make—but don’t actually mean—when communicating. That is, we make these statements even though they may not precisely mean what we want to communicate. Some of these utterances derive from firmly-established idioms that have been modified by usage over the years.

There are many reasons why we use phrases that do not accurately mean what we’re trying to say; two reasons top my list.

First, it’s a habit. We all have habits and tend to repeat those things that we have internalized. So if we’ve been saying something for twenty years, by gosh, we will continue to say it.

Second, if others say it that way, then we tend to say the same thing. If an authority figure—like a public official, a guest on a television show, or someone close to you—says something in a particular way, then you have a key reason to keep on saying that very same thing.

Here are two examples for today.

1. I could care less.

As in: “I could care less about the new Star Wars sequel.”

This is a correct sentence, but it is not used correctly in most cases. Usually when people say something similar to this, they mean “I couldn’t care less.”

There is a big difference between the two. If you “could” care less, that means exactly that—there are situations, in addition to the one you’re talking about right now, where you could care less because right now, you have some care left to give. Most likely, the speaker means that they are so ambivalent about the current situation that they “couldn’t” care less.

Now that we’re warmed up, here is number two.

2. Literally

John: “I literally was about to puke” (pardon the graphic example) or “I literally have a thousand things to do today.”

Let’s assume that John wasn’t really about to puke and that he only had fifty things to do today. The word “literally” means “actually, exactly, or unquestionably”; so this means that John is stretching the truth or exaggerating. I get that, and this is the main point I’m trying to make.

My idea is that if you’re trying to be exact and precise while communicating, what’s the point in sending an exact-opposite message of exaggeration? One suggestion is simple: don’t use “literally” when communicating; that’s right—just leave it out. And don’t even think that substituting its antonym (“figuratively”) is the next best thing to do. In most cases, doing so would sound awkward or clumsy. Just tighten up your sentence and leave it out.

On the other hand, language has evolved, and we have a second route that’s been around over two hundred years. There’s an argument out there in Language Land that the use of “literally” as we have just mentioned is permitted. This would be because no one really believes, for example, that John was about to puke or had a thousand things to do during the day.

Accordingly, you’ll find some stellar authorities advancing the notion that because certain statements are so unbelievable and absurd, that it is acceptable to use the word “literally” if it’s meant to be hyperbole.

How about that? My conclusion is that it’s perfectly fine to use or not use “literally” as just discussed. My first go-to solution would be to leave out the word if including it doesn’t advance the core idea that you’re trying to communicate; don’t say it just because you can. But at the same time, if you want to make a bold statement, exaggerate, or get your point across to someone in a big way, it's ok to use it.

Thanks for your time, and please contact me if you have questions or comments.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA            www.editing-expert.com

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Copy Editing

Congratulations to Julie, who was randomly selected to receive a complimentary copy edit from me. She sent me a great idea for an upcoming blog post; I will have another promotion later this year.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA               www.editing-expert.com

Friday, June 30, 2017

Your Ideas

Periodically, I ask readers about topics that are of interest to them. If you have a question or comment about something that is related to communication and has grammar overtones, please email me at randallponder@outlook.com. Your ideas are important to me; and if you’re interested in it, then I am as well.

Using the context of practical grammar and exceptional personal communication practices, I write about those things that impact our daily lives.

Thank you for your suggestions, and I will see you next time.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA    www.editing-expert.com 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday in the United States, the following is a reposting of last year's thoughts on the holiday.

One of the themes in my blog is the importance of looking out for the details whenever we communicate. That is, be aware of the nitty gritty details as well as the huge obvious ones that present themselves every day of our lives. If you check out my previous posts, you might think that I am obsessed with all things related to grammar and communication.

I respectfully decline that characterization; instead, I tend to think of myself as extremely interested in these areas, and as a result, I am focused, particular, meticulous, and exacting when dealing with grammar and communication. At the same time, I derive a huge amount of satisfaction from passing along information that could be useful to others. As I have said a few times in nuanced ways, I don’t know everything about grammar and communication, but I know enough to bring some useful ideas and successful tactics to you and others.

Today, I will make some key and relevant observations, and I hope that you will stay with me to the end. I will use Memorial Day as an example to reinforce some ideas and principles I have made in previous posts about grammar and communication.

Everyone loves holidays because you get to do neat things, such as going to the beach, taking a short trip, relaxing from work, or visiting relatives. During the upcoming Monday, those of us in the United States will celebrate Memorial Day. Take a moment and think about Memorial Day, and without using Google, ask yourself what is the purpose or meaning of Memorial Day?

Here are some possibilities:

- To honor those individuals who have served in peacetime or in war

- To honor those who have served our nation overseas in a civilian or military capacity     

- To honor any of our relatives who have died

Like the meaning of words as they change over the years, there are several interpretations of Memorial Day depending upon whom you ask. And like the changes in grammar and communication practices, different interpretations are ok and to be expected. There is no need to judge and no need to malign others who have a different opinion.

I need to point out some details and facts. First, if you read about Memorial Day, you’ll see that its origin dates back many decades, and the holiday has a vibrant history. Second, according to History.com, Memorial Day “honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.” Several other government and commercial websites offer a similar definition without distinguishing between wartime and peacetime service. Third, the holiday has unofficially evolved into one where in many towns and cities across America, all veterans—living or dead; wartime service or not—are honored.

How about that for adaptation? We have an official government-sanctioned federal holiday that honors those who died while they were serving in the military. As a veteran, the meaning of the holiday is clear to me. Yet still, there is ample evidence showing that while most Americans stay true to the original purpose and meaning of the holiday, other Americans supplement the original intent by honoring all veterans, alive or not.

This occurs even though we have a venerated holiday in November dedicated to all men and women who have served in the military: Veterans Day. In fact, there are many purists (veterans and others) who will gently correct a person who mistakenly confuses the two holidays. Most veterans will probably just be grateful that people are putting some thought into the situation by recognizing that veterans and those still serving have done or are doing some selfless, dangerous, and courageous work.

After spending some time thinking of and writing about one of the most sacred holidays in our country, I have some conclusions and suggestions.

• Like grammar, the definition and meaning of anything can change over time.

• If the meaning of something—like a word, phrase, or holiday—changes over time, accept it as natural and inevitable and don’t distress too much over it. These things happen, so try to adjust. But if you can’t adjust, that’s ok too.

• Details matter. If you have read my blog in the past, you already know many of my thoughts about the details and particulars of grammar and communication; I try to alert you to the key points and meanings that matter. With regard to today’s thoughts about the meaning of Memorial Day, those details matter as well—but in a much more exalted and special way.

Thank you for your time today as we enter into the Memorial Day weekend. I send special thanks and appreciation to the men and women who have died serving our country while in the military.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA     www.editing-expert.com https://www.twitter.com/randallponder        @randallponder

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Which is Better—Speed or Accuracy?

The following scenario occurs regularly for many of us.

A deadline to respond in writing or verbally is looming—choose this or do that within the next hour, day, or week—yet we are petrified and unable to move forward for fear of making the wrong decision or for want of more information. We want to decide, but we need more time to verify the facts and gather information.
The opposite may be true. It could be that we aren’t afraid to act; instead, we are deciding too quickly because we want to act fast or we are ignoring the details.
The example poses two pertinent questions. Should we trust ourselves, move quickly, and go with our instincts by acting as soon as possible? Or, do we wait to get all the facts and other information before acting?

This three-part series will look at doing things quickly vs. doing them accurately in a communication-related scenario. Inherently, the major issue for discussion is not simply how to communicate; instead, it is one of how to effectively make communication-related decisions when given the constraints of time and accuracy.
Three core skills are involved when facing a speed-accuracy situation: priorities management, problem solving, and decision making. All three are interrelated, and if you become good at them, everyday life and its challenges at work and home will become easier. Indeed, anyone could benefit by learning more about these skills.

However, this three-part series is not intended to teach you any of these skills or show you all the details of how to make a better communication decision; there is not enough time to do this properly via a blog. I have discussed some of these skills in previous blog posts, and training and personal development resources are easily available to you from many sources.

The goal of this series is to create awareness in a broad but simple way about the specific issues of speed and accuracy. Accordingly, I will explore the consequences and tradeoffs involved when you’re trying to be quick without accuracy or accurate without speed.

In part two, I will look at why all of this is important.

Thanks for your time, and I'll see you next time.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA     www.editing-expert.com https://www.twitter.com/randallponder        @randallponder 

Friday, March 31, 2017

He, She, or They—What do you say?

In previous posts, I’ve said that in language and communication, changes will happen. The change may be slow, circuitous, or controversial; but changes will occur.

Last week at the annual American Copy Editors Society (ACES) conference, an editor from the widely-used AP Stylebook made a stunning yet long-expected announcement that signals a major change in one area of language usage. The AP Stylebook is used by copy editors, journalists, and businesses in the United States and other countries, and it’s heavily relied upon as a top grammar style and usage guide for the correct use of the English language. It’s not the only style guide, but it’s in the top three.

This change will not greatly affect your everyday life, but you’ll probably begin to notice its increased use over the upcoming months—even though the usage has been occurring for a while. Since the change is directly related to daily communication in speaking and writing, I thought it would be helpful to give you an update; it pertains to these words: they, them, their.

As reported March 24, 2017 by ACES at www.copydesk.org, the AP Stylebook is now allowing “use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun or gender-neutral pronoun.” The stylebook’s lead editor, Paula Froke, said that usually, everyone can “write around” (that is, avoid using) this new rule, presumably by using the traditional “he” or “she” when referring to someone.

Now before we get all worked up over the change, I will give you the editor’s rationale:

“But we offer new advice for two reasons: recognition that the spoken language uses ‘they’ as singular and we also recognize the need for a pronoun for people who don’t identify as a he or a she.”
The new rule in the stylebook to which Ms. Froke referred is this:

“They, them, their. In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular ‘they’ is unfamiliar to many readers.”
So in this announcement, many questions were raised and answered (for the moment) by the stylebook’s representatives. To make all of this clear, I continue quoting directly from the ACES website article, and I’ve bolded some key points that are interesting. My impression is that the AP Stylebook does not prefer or endorse this usage; they are simply accepting it and allowing it if necessary for clarity.

Froke said clarity is key when using ‘they’ as a genderless pronoun.

“We specify that you need to make clear in the context that the ‘they’ in question is just one person,” Froke said. “We don’t, among our own staff, want to open a floodgate. But we recognize a need for it, so we want to open it a bit.

“The whole issue is difficult. We worked very hard to come up with a solution that makes sense.

“Clarity is the top priority. Our concern was the readers out there. Many don’t understand that ‘they’ can be used for a singular person.”

But Froke also acknowledged that in speech, ‘they’ is often used as singular.

“I write it naturally sometimes, too, and then have to go back and change it,” she said.

The style entry notes that when “they” is singular it takes a plural verb.

Colleen Newvine, product manager for the AP Stylebook, said people don’t have to use ‘they’ as singular but “if you find it best, it’s allowed.”

“Some people will be furious; others won’t think we’ve gone far enough,” Newvine said.

So what does this mean for us in our everyday communication with others? As the ACES article implies, continue using “he” and “she” when you’re certain that he is a he and she is a she. When there is doubt or if you don’t want to identify if the person is a he or a she, consider using the words they, them, or their. Clarity is our top goal.

Here are five typical examples where the new rule could be used.
1. I spoke to someone yesterday, and they told me to do it.

2. When in doubt, call up a company representative and ask them how it’s supposed to work.

3. I met an interesting person today, and their ideas on the issue were outstanding.

4. Someone just emailed me, and they gave me the information I needed.

5. I spoke to the manager yesterday, and they said they were going to do it.

Thank you for your time this month, I appreciate it, and please bookmark my blog for easy reference.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA     www.editing-expert.com https://www.twitter.com/randallponder        @randallponder

Monday, February 27, 2017

Oops—The First Three Things To Do When You've Goofed

Oh well, it will happen many times to all people and organizations. I am referring to when we make mistakes that are communication related. It is well known that no person or entity is perfect, and when it comes to communication, I have said multiple times in this blog that we are all destined to err when we communicate. The key is to recognize it and learn from your mistake because there are a variety of things that can be done to lower the risk of a future communication-related error.
And just last night, many of us saw a colossal communication error unfold at the 89th Academy Awards, which was organized and presented by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; read about the esteemed Academy at www.Oscars.org.

When looking at the list of global crises or humanitarian issues, the Oscar flub was not a big deal. To the winners and losers of the Best Picture category, it was a pretty big deal. To the renowned accounting organization managing the process that resulted in the wrong movie being erroneously announced as the winner, it was a really big deal. To understand more about this February 26, 2017 mistake-that-will-go-down-in-Hollywood-history, you can view plenty of online articles and videos. Possibly you could search for “La La Land and Moonlight flub,” or even better, try searching for “2017 Oscar Fail.” You’ll see videos containing several minutes of panic and brouhaha after La La Land was announced as the winner in the Best Picture category, when instead the award should have gone to Moonlight.

Ok. That’s out of the way. We know that a mistake was made, and we need to learn some lessons from it. What are the first three things we should do if we make a communication mistake?

1. Confirm that the error was made. You think you made a mistake, but did you really? Check and verify so that further steps to fix it do not add to the confusion. Did you mistakenly say something that was wrong, did you send an email to the wrong person, or did you write something that was clearly in error? At the Oscars last night, it took a few people who were in the know just a few seconds to realize that something had gone wrong—terribly wrong. A mistake was made.

2. Determine the best way to fix it and fix it quickly. Don’t prolong the pain, but instead move quickly and methodically. If you misstated the facts, state the correct facts. If the wrong information was sent, say so as quickly as possible and follow up with the correct particulars. If you view any of the Oscar videos from last night, you’ll notice that within seconds a nice and gracious guy (the producer of La La Land) told the cast of the true winning movie (Moonlight) that yes indeed, it is true: You Are The Winner. Yes, hearts were broken, people were disappointed, and others were confused and elated. But can you imagine if this error was corrected an hour later or even during the following day? Move quickly with a plan.

3. Accept responsibility and apologize. Everyone knows that we all make mistakes, and it is expected to happen to each of us. When it happens—and it will happen frequently—contact the person or people to whom you erred and admit that you made a mistake. Apologize. This step is usually done in combination with number two above.

Last night in the remaining minutes of the final Oscar presentation and afterwards as well, one can see the beginnings of acceptance of responsibility followed up by apologies. The presenters did the best they could, and they were helped in the background by the Oscar producers and the accounting organization’s on-the-ground officials who were entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the right envelopes were delivered at the right times. Several minutes of drama and confusion were followed by a quick cleanup operation that prevented a more disastrous situation from unfolding. Ultimately, between last night and today, the accounting organization humbly and profusely apologized for the unprecedented mistake and said it was their fault; it would investigate what happened and fix it.

Will people talk about last night for the remainder of the year? Oh no; I think it will be discussed well into the next century. But that’s ok because we all make mistakes, right? What’s important is that we learn from our slip-ups, improve, and make fewer errors as we move along on this journey called life.

Thanks for checking in with me for my first-ever post-Oscars commentary. I appreciate your time, and please bookmark my blog for easy reference.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA     www.editing-expert.com https://www.twitter.com/randallponder        @randallponder

Monday, January 30, 2017

Communicating How Smart You Are To Others

Long ago, I figured out that if someone says something so clearly and that I’m trying to say the same thing or something similar, then I will share their remarks and give them the proper credit for the idea. As is the case this month, I saw a January 3rd article by Travis Bradberry, who is a contributing writer at www.forbes.com. After giving you my thoughts on his ideas, I will present his article in its entirety below; if you want to read it online, please go to the Forbes website and search his collection of articles.

Bradberry makes compelling points by listing some interesting ways to communicate with others using several different techniques; he also talks about emotional intelligence, which is an area that is central to his writings and business career. His main idea is if you do some or all of these things, you will appear to be smarter to others; that, in turn, will help you out in other ways. I don’t agree with everything he says below, though, I agree with most all of it.

In the end and in my opinion, this is all about how one communicates themselves to others, and for that reason I am interested in what he says. Plus, the author throws in some grammar pointers in three of his ideas, so that got my attention. Many of his suggestions may make you appear to be smarter, though I think the extended message is that by doing these ten things, you will appear to others as confident, approachable, and knowledgeable about what you’re doing. You are communicating.

There is, I suggest, the issue of superficiality and whether you are giving away your authenticity and true personality by doing these ten things. I believe that this is entirely possible, but it depends on you and how you use these ideas. I will acknowledge that there are some unanswered questions that the article creates, but I won't get into that today. For now, I simply want to share this useful article with you and let you make your own conclusions as to if the ideas can benefit you in your daily life.

“Ten Guaranteed Ways To Appear Smarter Than You Are”
Travis Bradberry


It’s great to be smart, but intelligence is a hard thing to pin down. In many cases, how smart people think you are is just as important as how smart you actually are.
As it turns out, intelligence only explains about 20% of how you do in life; much of the other 80% comes down to emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is a skill that’s so important that 90% of top performers in the workplace have high EQs and people with high EQs make $28,000 more annually than those with low EQs.

The hallmark of emotional intelligence is self-awareness, which involves not just knowing how you are but also how other people perceive you. People with high emotional intelligence are masters of influence—they’re skilled at altering their behavior to make the most of a given situation.

You might not be able to alter your genetics, but there are some proven strategies that can help you appear to be smarter. Some of these strategies seem arbitrary, but research shows they make a massive difference. That makes this good information to have, especially when you need to sway someone to your way of thinking.


10. Dress for success.
This one should be no surprise. Extensive research shows that how you dress affects how people see you. Dressing well makes you seem more intelligent, and showing skin makes you seem less intelligent, as it directs people’s attention to your body rather than to your mind. But did you know that how you dress also affects your performance? A recent study by Northwestern University found that making people wear lab coats improved their performance in tasks that required intelligence and concentration.

9. Keep pace with the crowd.
I mean this one literally. I know it may sound silly, but research conducted at Boston University shows that it’s true. It’s called the “timescale bias,” and it refers to our tendency to attribute greater intelligence—based on mental attributes like consciousness, awareness, and intention—to people who do things at about the same speed as everyone else. If you want to look smarter, you need to stop dawdling, but you also need to stop scurrying around like some crazed robot.

8. Wear nerd glasses.
Did your mom ever tell you to be nice to the nerds, because you’ll probably be working for them someday? As usual, mom was onto something. Research shows that people wearing glasses—especially thick, full-framed ones—are perceived as being more intelligent. So, if you want to seem smarter (when you’re giving a presentation, perhaps?), leave the contacts at home and wear your glasses.

7. Look ’em in the eye.
We know we’re supposed to do this anyway—it’s good manners, right? That’s true, but it also makes you look smarter. In a study conducted at Loyola University, participants who intentionally managed their eye contact scored significantly higher on perceived intelligence.

6. Speak expressively.
Communication expert Leonard Mlodinow makes the case that even if two people say exactly the same thing, the one who says it most expressively will be perceived as being smarter. “If two speakers utter exactly the same words, but one speaks a little faster and louder and with fewer pauses and greater variation in volume, that speaker will be judged to be more energetic, knowledgeable, and intelligent,” Mlodinow said. If you want to come across as more intelligent, modulate your speech by varying your pitch, volume, speed, and energy level.

5. Write simply.
If you’re really smart, you shouldn’t have to use big words to broadcast it. True intelligence speaks for itself, so you don’t have to show off your impressive vocabulary. In addition, you always run the chance of being wrong. Using a big word incorrectly makes you look, well, not so smart. So, if you want to appear more intelligent, stop studying the dictionary and just focus on communicating effectively.

4. Believe in yourself.
Nothing projects intelligence quite like confidence. When you believe in yourself, it shows, and research shows that believing in yourself improves your performance on cognitive tasks. Self-doubt, on the other hand, impairs your performance. What’s worse is that other people pick up on this doubt, which makes you appear less intelligent to them. If you want people to believe in you, you have to believe in yourself.

3. Make graphs.
Research conducted at Cornell suggests that people are more likely to trust a source if it contains graphs. In one of the Cornell studies, participants read a document on the effectiveness of a new cold medication. One report contained a graph; the other didn’t. Other than that, they were exactly the same. Still, 96% of the participants who read the report with a graph believed the claims, while only 67% percent of those who read the document without a graph thought the same. So, next time you create a document, stick in a graph. It doesn’t have to be complex; it just has to be accurate.

2. Use a middle initial.
John F. Kennedy. Franklin D. Roosevelt. It turns out there might be a reason that so many people who hold a prominent place in history used a middle initial. Not only does using a middle initial enhance your perceived social status, it also boosts expectations of intelligence capacity and performance. In one study, participants were asked to read and rate Einstein’s essay on the theory of relativity, with authorship being attributed to either David Clark, David F. Clark, David F. P. Clark, or David F. P. R. Clark. Not only did David F. Clark get higher ratings than David Clark, David F. P. R. Clark outdid them all. In another study, participants were asked to choose team members. For academic competitions, people who used middle initials were selected more frequently than those who didn’t. (It was quite a different story for athletic competitions.) So, if you want a quick perceived IQ boost, start using that middle initial.

1. Skip that drink.
And that’s not just because people tend to do stupid things when they’ve been drinking. A joint study conducted by the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania revealed that merely seeing someone hold a drink is enough to make them seem less intelligent. It’s not that we assume less intelligent people are more likely to drink; it’s that the perceived correlation between drinking and cognitive impairment is so strong that we assume impairment even if there isn’t any. For example, although job candidates frequently think that ordering a glass of wine over a dinner interview will make them appear intelligent and worldly, it actually makes them come across as less intelligent and less hirable. There’s even a name for it: the “imbibing idiot bias.”

Bringing It All Together

Intelligence (IQ) is fixed at an early age. You might not be able to change your IQ, but you can definitely alter the way people perceive you. When it comes to succeeding in the real world, perception is half the battle.


Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA     www.editing-expert.com
https://www.twitter.com/randallponder        @randallponder 
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