Nouns vs. Verbs to Motivate

December 13, 2015

Got a question from the Peanut Gallery. Stacey in New Mexico asked:

I just read this: “Use nouns rather than verbs to get people to change their behavior.” I cannot wrap my mind around that. Could you please give me examples?

My answer:

I think they mean that using verbs makes you sound bossy, like you are telling them what to do.

Example: Don’t drink and drive.

People tend to rebel or look for loopholes when they hear commands like that, human nature being what it is.

On the other hand, look at what my company, Occidental Petroleum, has as our core principles:

Integrity, Investment, Innovation

Those are nouns, and when they are set before people as goals, people strive to achieve these things, doing whatever it takes.

So your troubling statement suggests that the latter is more effective than giving commands in getting people to change their behavior.

Here’s what behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenk, who wrote the book How To Get People To Do Stuff, says on the subject:

“People need to belong….  If you use nouns when making a request, rather than verbs – for example: ‘Be a donor’ versus ‘Donate now’ –  it results in more people taking action. That’s because nouns invoke group identity.”

So that goes along with my thoughts. Try it and tell me if it works, and I will do the same.

 

 

Units of Measure Standard

July 3, 2014

Energistics, the industry consortium formerly known as POSC, has released its Units of Measure Standard Version 1.0, along with a dictionary, a usage guide, grammar rules, and maps to other industry standards.

“Accurate use, exchange, and conversion of units of measure (UOM) in upstream oil and gas software are crucial,” states the introduction to the Energistics Unit Symbol Grammar Specification. “Errors in units of measure can cause serious problems for the accuracy and integrity of earth and reservoir models and the decisions that are based on those models.”

Remember that crash landing on Mars that was caused by a mix-up between feet and meters? That’s the kind of expensive mistake they are trying to avoid with this standard.

The Energistics workgroup collaborated with the Professional Petroleum Data Management (PPDM) Association and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) to update previous standards for upstream units of measure, including POSC Unit of Measure V2.2, RP66, and OpenSpirit®. The goal was to improve accuracy and consistency of implementation, usage, exchange, and conversion of units of measure, particularly in software programs and databases. In fact, software that implements Energistics’ data-exchange standards (e.g., WITSML™, PRODML™ or RESQML™) must implement this new standard.

This standard should also be used in any correlation equations included in reports, papers and journal articles, as these may one day be coded into software programs of the future. To download the entire zipped package, visit: http://www.energistics.org/asset-data-management/unit-of-measure-standard.

So how does grammar fit into units of measure? Well, just as a sentence is constructed from parts of speech using certain rules of grammar, so a unit of measure can be constructed from a base unit and prefixes (milli–, mega–), multipliers, divisors, and exponents.

Supported Patterns      Description
a.b     Multiplication
a/b     Division
1/a     Inverse
1/(a.b)         Inverse
1E6 a   Scientific notation multiplier
1E-6 a  Negative power of ten
1/16 a  Fractional multiplier
0.01 a  Decimal multiplier
a2      Squared
a3      Cubed
a9      Ninth power
a(0.5)  Square root
a.b/c   Single factor in divisor
a/(b.c)         Multiple factors in divisor
(a/b)/(c/b)     Maximum division nesting
(a3.c/b2)/(c7/(a.b))    Complex expression

Here are a few more guidelines they recommend:
•       For multipliers between 1E3 and 0 (inclusive), use an integer number instead of an exponential multiplier. For example, use 100 ft not 1E2 ft.
•       For multipliers between 1E-2 and 1E-3 (inclusive), use a decimal fraction instead of an exponential number. For example, use 0.01 ft not 1E-2 ft.
•       For an irrational multiplier, use whole numbered ratios (where reasonable) instead of decimal fractions. For example, use 1/3 ft not 0.33333333 ft. For other fractions, use a decimal fraction such as 0.01 ft.
•       For numbers that would otherwise contain many zeros, use exponential format (e.g., 1E6 or 2.3456E-6). That is, do not use values such as 0.00000023456 or 2345600000.

For the full story, including how the new grammar differs from Recommended Practice 66, please download the new standard at:

http://www.energistics.org/asset-data-management/unit-of-measure-standard

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Grammar Quotes of the Day:

“Statistics is the grammar of science.”
–  Karl Pearson, British mathematician, 1857-1936

“Grammar, which knows how to control even kings.”
–  Moliere, French playwright, 1622-1673

“Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason.”
–  Richard Chenevix Trench, Irish clergyman, 1807–1886

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Ban These Business Words

June 21, 2014

Today I will reprint an excellent rant by Jeffrey Gitomer about namby-pamby leadership words that ought to be replaced by stronger, more powerful words to motivate and lead the troops.
This appeared in his Sales Caffeine e-newsletter that he sends out each Tuesday morning. You can subscribe to it at the link below. This is reprinted with his permission.
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Leadership Words That Need to be Banned. Forever.
By Jeffrey Gitomer, http://www.gitomer.com/sales-magazine/Sales-Caffeine.html

Pabulum leadership words really bug me – but not as bad as they may bug you if they’re uttered by your leader.
Leaders are known by their words, deeds, actions, values, principles, and by the people they attract both on their team and in the world, but…
• It’s their words that set the tone for the environment.
• It’s their words that start the internal chatter.
• It’s their words that start their internal reputation.
…THEN it’s the actions that follow. All are studied and judged by the team.
OBVIOUS OBSERVATION: Great leaders attract great people. So why is there so much leadership mediocrity? Must be their words (and the way they’re spoken)!
I read a lot of stuff about leaders and leadership. Below are a bunch of leadership “words” (in no particular order) that sound good, but mean virtually nothing. You’ve heard them, and groaned about them.
I’m defining several of the words I have an issue with (cannot stand), in italics, then explaining why I have the issue, challenging the status-quo, and suggesting better words, replacement words, substitute words, in ALL CAPS, and explaining my reasons.

• Embrace means you’re ok with it, but not necessarily a participant – not good. I don’t want leaders to “embrace change.” I want a leader that takes ACTION. ACTION is a better word, because it means something’s happening.
• Accountable means they fess up if (and after) something goes wrong, and results are measured. RESPONSIBLE is a better option. Be responsible for yourself and to yourself. Be responsible for your words and deeds. Be responsible for your attitude. Be responsible and take responsibility for your achievements.
• Effective – to me, effective means mediocre. Sort of carries a “so-what” feeling to it. I really don’t want an effective heart surgeon. I want the BEST. He’s an effective salesman? Or he’s the BEST salesman? Which would you rather have?
• Diversity – I really don’t know what this means in business. It’s a word spoken by many, understood by few. I guess it refers to hiring and doing business with all types of people and businesses. Sad that the world has to come to this. It seems forced. When leaders preach diversity, they have to make a special effort, rather than a natural effort. I prefer the word INCLUSIVE. It tells a deeper tale of involvement, and is a positive word that needs no defining. It’s also singular. I’m inclusive. “I’m diverse” or “I’m all about diversity” sounds contrived.
• Focus – this is a word that means the leader is “honed in on” something, and that’s what he or she is paying major attention to. I would rather know from my leader what his or her INTENTION is, and what the intention is to do something about what you’re focused on. Just because you’re focused on something doesn’t mean you intend to do something about it.
• Understand – you’re kidding me, right? This is a totally weak and passive word. Bob understands or Bob is understanding. So what? Is Bob doing anything about it? That’s leadership. I want someone that knows what to do, and does it. I want an EXPERT. When I have an issue, do I want to bring it to someone who understands – or do I want to bring it to an expert?
• Paradigm – This is a two-decade old word that has lost its way. Sometimes it’s accompanied by the word “shift” and means there’s a new way. Or to add to this corporate speak dialog, the word “change” is added as well. Change is arguably the most negative word in business besides bankrupt. A better word is OPPORTUNITY. When change occurs or there’s a paradigm shift, doesn’t it make a whole lot more sense to look for the opportunity? I agree.
• Results – Bob is results-oriented. Bob focuses on results. Not good. Bob needs to lead his people, and convey his intentions. A better word is OUTCOME. OUTCOME takes both people and task into consideration AND stresses what happens after completion.
• At the end of the day is a summary of expectations and predictions – usually stated in the negative. When someone says this I can assure you they’re just searching for words. At the end of the day has no alternative – the phrase should just be eliminated – forever.

REALITY: Think about all these words in a group. As a leader, which group would you like to have attributed to you?
GROUP ONE: Embrace, accountable, effective, diversity, focus, understand, paradigm, results, at the end of the day.
GROUP TWO: ACTION, RESPONSIBLE, BEST, INCLUSIVE, INTENTION, EXPERT, OPPORTUNITY, OUTCOME.
Group TWO will consist of proactive, powerful, respected, followed leaders. Group ONE will consist of reactive, weak, disrespected leaders that will lose their best people – to the leaders of group two. Embrace that paradigm.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of twelve best-selling books including The Sales Bible and The Little Red Book of Selling and 21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling. Visit www.Gitomer.com<http://www.gitomer.com/> or email Jeffrey personally at salesman@gitomer.com<mailto:salesman@gitomer.com>.

© 2014 All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with permission from Jeffrey Gitomer.

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Word choice is very important, especially for managers. Always use a stronger word when attempting to motivate or convince people. If you find yourself using “pabulum” in your writing, you can always go to the Thesaurus in Word (Review Tab, third icon from the left) to get some suggestions for better words to use in their stead.

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Usually the first problems you solve with the new paradigm are the ones that were unsolvable with the old paradigm.”
–  Joel A. Barker, American futurist and lecturer
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Prior To vs. Before

May 22, 2014

Grammar purists will tell you that you should not use the expression “prior to” as a preposition when you mean “before.”

They will tell you “prior” is an adjective that means “earlier” or “previous.” You wouldn’t say “earlier to” or “previous to,” so you shouldn’t use “prior to.”

My well-worn Webster’s dictionary says “prior to” is “pompous or affected,” and others say the expression is “stuffy,” and “longer, clumsier, and awash with pretension.”

My dictionary also says (under synonyms for preceding): “PREVIOUS and PRIOR imply existing or occurring earlier, but PRIOR often adds an implication of greater importance,” as in the word “priority.”

Examples:
Work orders with waivers approved prior to their due date are also considered compliant.
Work orders with waivers approved before their due date are also considered compliant.

The second one is simpler and clearer – especially if English is not your native language!

Funny Typo of the Day
“It is the responsibility of the Project Manager to ensure that all rules and regulations are followed to ensure food standing with local and state authorities.”

Snarky Comment:
Those local and state authorities – especially the police – can be bribed with doughnuts!

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world!”
Anne Frank, German Jewish girl and diary author killed in the Holocaust, 1929-1945
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Pre-Planning

May 20, 2014

The next time I see somebody use the word “pre-planning,” I’m going to have to report that person to the Department of Repetitive Redundancy for using a pleonasm.

You see, “planning” is the act or process of making a plan or plans. A plan is a mental formulation or a graphic representation that is done before the action takes place. A plan is also a scheme, program, or method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective. The concept of “before” is already included in the word, which makes the “pre–” prefix, which also means “before,” unnecessary. It’s the same situation with “advanced planning” or “future plans,” which are also pleonasms. Nix, Nix.

So what in the Sam Hill is a pleonasm, you ask? It’s two words put together that mean the same thing. Here are some examples I found on Wordfocus.com:
– burning fire
– cash money
– end result
– all together
– invited guests
– null and void
– cease and desist
– ATM machine
– HIV virus
– RAM memory

A pleonasm is the opposite of an oxymoron, which is two words put together that mean the opposite:
– awfully good
– deafening silence
– pretty ugly

These are not to be confused with Oxy morons… (don’t get me started.)

Bet You Didn’t Know….
The official plural of “oxymoron” is “oxymora”, although “oxymorons” is becoming more acceptable.

It is a good idea to avoid using pleonasms in your writing, because they are redundant.
It is also a good idea to avoid using oxymora in your writing, because they can be confusing.

Funny Tidbit:
When you search Google for “pre-planning” you get ads for cremation services and funerals. You either plan for your funeral, or you don’t; there is no such thing as post-planning in that industry!

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

–  Alan Lakein, American businessman, author of How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, which sold 3 million copies
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Effectively

May 18, 2014

Effectively is a rather unusual adverb because you can put it in two different places in the same sentence and have it mean two entirely different things.

Example 1:
This drilling mud removes cuttings from the well effectively.

In this location, “effectively” means purposefully and efficiently, in a way that produces a desired result.

Example 2:
This drilling mud effectively removes cuttings from the well.

In this location, “effectively” means virtually, in an indirect way, actually but not officially or explicitly.

Now, which mud would you rather use?  Mud Number 1, of course!

Here is another scenario:
1)  Port authorities said maritime operations there were shut down effectively.
This means they wanted to shut down because of a bomb scare, and they did a really good job of it.

2)  Port authorities said maritime operations there were effectively shut down.
This means they didn’t want to shut down, but the fog made it impossible for them to work.

The moral of this story is: Be sure you put the word “effectively” in the right place in the sentence to convey the meaning you really want.

Meaning #1: Had a good result – put “effectively” at the end of the phrase or sentence.
Meaning #2: In effect, for all intents and purposes, basically – put “effectively” before the verb.

Here’s another example of such usage:
A good charitable foundation makes sure that the monies raised are used effectively. (Meaning #1)
They were effectively controlled by the people they were supposed to be investigating. (Meaning #2)

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.”

–  Lee Iacocca, American businessman, former CEO and Chairman of Chrysler Corp., b. 1924
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Verses vs. Versus

May 10, 2014

Verses vs. Versus
Although they are pronounced nearly the same, these two words are completely different parts of speech.
The word “versus” is a Latin-based preposition that means “against” or “in contrast to.”
The word “verses” is a noun, the plural of “verse,” which is a line of a poem, a stanza of a song, or a numbered part of a Bible chapter.

Here’s a bad example I saw today:
Trip sheets are used by the driller to track hole fill verses metal displacement.

If you are comparing two things, use versus, not verses – unless, of course, you are Shakespeare:
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”

According to the SPE Style Guide, you may abbreviate versus as vs., which is what I do often in my Writing Style Tip of the Day titles (see above).
Verily, I think this is one of my best titles ever.
______________________________

Welcome to the 49 new subscribers in Bogota, Colombia!
I have a nice gift for you to bring you up to speed quickly.

One of the local Peanut Gallery members, Don here in the Houston office, sent me a nice link to a whole bunch of words that are mistaken for each other:
http://www.businessinsider.com/words-that-people-almost-always-get-wrong-2014-4

If I had written it, I would have used “Affect vs. Effect” instead of “Affect and Effect.”
You might want to bookmark this website if you struggle with any of these pairs of similar words.
Thanks for sharing, Don.
And thanks to Dale Walker for promoting my writing tips in South America.

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“I have not the slightest pretension to call my verses poetry; I write now and then for no other purpose than to relieve depression or to improve my English.”

–  Alfred Nobel, Swedish scientist who invented dynamite (the Nobel Prize is named after him) 1833-1896
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May 2, 2014

Letter vs. A4 Paper Size

Here in the USA we default to “letter” size paper (8.5 x 11 inches), whereas in the Middle East offices they use A4 paper (210 x 297 mm or 8.3 x 11.7 inches). Why the difference?

There is actually an ISO standard (ISO 216) for paper sizes. In the A series, A0 paper is one square meter in area with an aspect ratio (x/y) of [X] , so if you fold that in half, you get A1 paper, and if you fold that in half, you get A2 paper, and if you fold that in half, you get A3 paper, and if you fold that in half, you get A4 paper. Now, guess what you get when you fold that in half….?

The ISO standard also has a B series and a C series. B1 size paper is halfway between A0 and A1, and B2 paper is halfway between A1 and A2, etc. B series paper sizes are used for posters, books, envelopes and passports.

The C series is only used for envelopes, as defined in ISO 269. Now, for you real geeks out there: the area of C series sheets is the geometric mean of the areas of the A and B series sheets of the same number. That means that C4 is slightly larger than A4, such that an A4 letter fits nicely inside a C4 envelope. Likewise, a C4 letter fits inside a B4 envelope. How cool is that?

Here is a handy-dandy table with all the dimensions of the A, B, and C series paper sizes in both mm and inches.

(From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_size)
ATT75073 1 ATT64577 2

Now, back to those crazy North Americans, who are a bunch of mavericks and have to do things their own way. In the USA, Canada, and Mexico, they use 8.5 x 11 inch “letter” paper (also called ANSI A), 8.5 x 14 inch “legal” paper, and 11 x 17 inch “tabloid” or “ledger” paper (also called ANSI B). The ANSI paper sizes also follow a fold-it-in-half rule (see above).

The thing to remember is this: If you are composing a document in North America that will be printed outside of North America, you will have to go to the Page Layout tab in Word, click on Size, and change it from Letter to A4. Then you will have to scroll through your whole document and adjust picture sizes or do a “Keep With Next” on certain items so they don’t break across the page in an ugly way. It’s much easier if you start with the correct size paper setting in the first place!

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

–  William Wordsworth, English poet, 1770–1850

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Stubborn Watermark

April 22, 2014

Kirby, a loyal member of the Peanut Gallery in Qatar, had a problem. He had a DRAFT watermark on his Word document that simply would not go away. The watermark on the odd pages went away using the normal means (Page Layout tab > Watermark > Remove Watermark), but the one on the even pages was stubborn and stayed there no matter what. He asked for help and emailed his document to me.

I tried the usual means, which didn’t work (no surprise), and tried a few other things, which didn’t work either. Then I went to my Word guru, Rhonda Bracey in Australia, who just so happened to have the solution posted on her CyberText Newsletter blog on WordPress:

Watermarks have always been stored as part of the header in Word, so:
1. Double-click inside the section’s header to open it.
2. Move your cursor over some of the letters in the watermark until it turns into a 4-way arrow.
3. Click to select the watermark (you’ll see colored selection handles around the watermark text when it’s selected).
4. Press the Delete key to remove the watermark.
5. Repeat for all other sections that have a stubborn watermark that you can’t remove.

I tried this on the document Kirby had emailed to me, and TA-DA! It worked like a charm! Thanks, Rhonda!
So I thought I would share this with the rest of the Peanut Gallery in case they ever experienced a stubborn watermark.
It sure makes you feel great when that DRAFT is gone, and the document is done!

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher, 1844–1900
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Irregularities

April 18, 2014

I received two submissions from the Houston Peanut Gallery today.

The first is from David, who spotted an error pertaining to an irregular verb in a news story:

“The South Korean coast guard managed to pull a 6-year-old girl to safety before the ship capsized and sunk.”

Here’s another example of that same usage, taken from a TV commercial from my youth (way back last millennium):

“You sunk my battleship!”

The simple past tense of the verb “to sink” is “sank.” Sunk is used as a past participle after the verb “to have.”

Corrected Examples:
…before the ship sank (simple past)
…before the ship had sunk (past participle)

Yes, the dictionary says that both “sank” and “sunk” are accepted as the simple past tense, but I’m a grammar purist and will change it to “sank” every time just to be consistent.

The second irregularity is a short video / poem sent by Don about how irregular the English language is. I think you will enjoy it.

http://www.wimp.com/poemenglish/

Having such weirdness is one of the reasons I have a little bit of job security!

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, 1803-1882

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