Writing and speaking properly are important for financial professionals, professors and students. Although there are no grammar police walking a beat, a poorly worded communication has the potential to offend the receiver. Giving offense is bad because it distracts from the message. Here is an example.
Two people meet, and one says to the other, “How are you today?”
The other responds, “I am good.”
The proper response is, “I am well.”
I have heard many anecdotes of the heavy cost incurred by financial professionals who write or speak poorly, for it is not unusual to lose business as a result of unpolished prose. Moreover, there are significant benefits to writing and speaking properly.
Why do I blog about this today? A recent discussion on AECM (e-mail listserv for accounting professors) focused on the proper use of active and passive voice. Although some say that it is bad to use passive voice, it really isn’t. It depends upon meaning and style.
In my opinion, a balanced program of continuing professional education (CPAs must take at least 40 hours per year) should include instruction in writing and speaking properly. I would be happy to offer these CPE sessions, should any state society wish to hire me.
It takes a tremendous effort to learn proper English. Like most, I learned proper English from reading. After teaching myself to read, I read hundreds of magazine short stories, thousands of science fiction novels, countless newspaper sports pages and many encyclopedia articles. If you don’t like to read, realize that you are limiting yourself in much the same way as not regularly bathing, or even not brushing your teeth.
Then there are the K-12 courses in English, endured but not enjoyed. I took English literature courses in college, which not only provided instruction in writing, but also provided many opportunities to practice.
Being able to practice writing is the final building block. Written communications, papers in school and perhaps even short stories give writers the necessary exercise to build their Enlgish muscles. Always there is the goal of doing a better job of expressing thoughts, emotions and depictions of events.
Web sites can supplement the learning process, but they do not substitute for the reading and practice. For the AECM issue of active or passive voice, a visit to the Grammar Girl blog provides guidance.
For an entertaining look at proper wording, visit the Terribly Write blog.
Bob Jensen (emeritus professor from Trinity University) has some links to writing helpers (wait 10 seconds for page to load).
[Editing is very important. Failure to spot an error can lead to embarrassing errors. Thanks to Gary Zeune for spotting one that was in the first sentence.]
Debit and credit – – David Albrecht