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?
“That person should coordinate everything a little better?”
“My suggestion is to get him to clarify his policies?”
"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