May 22, 2016
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endorsements2Sometimes it’s hard to find the line between social media for business and social media for personal interaction. Business sites take a dim view of users stalking each other or commenting, “I like your smile.” Unless you’re casting models for a toothpaste ad, that message is inappropriate in business communication.

But if you’re looking for a new job or a better one, you probably need contacts, networking possibilities, sales prospects, and endorsements wherever you can find them.

Although you can set your profile preferences to ignore them, you probably get requests to endorse people you know. The requests can seem outrageous. A co-worker, for example, has less-than-zero skill in the area claimed in the request. When the question window pops up and asks, “Does ____ know about ____?” I’ve been known to say aloud, “Oh HELL no!” She appears to claim skill in what is, in fact, a major deficiency. But wait—there’s another possibility.

Business sites, like other social media (and that includes Facebook and online dating sites) make money by increasing participation. They send messages that hint, or outright claim, that you’re reaching out to someone or claiming a skill – without your knowledge. When a reply or the endorsement hits your Inbox, it seems unsolicited. You think, “Hmmm. Nice.” So you reply or endorse them in return, and so on and so on. More clicks, more ad exposure, more membership signups.

A key word in your profile can trigger an unsolicited endorsement request. You might have designed the cover for a book on Java, but would never seek endorsement as an expert programmer. How do you protect yourself from the appearance of unjustifiable boasting?

  1. Don’t list skills in your profile or resume that you don’t have.
  2. Go to your profile and turn off endorsement requests.
  3. If you don’t want to turn them off completely, see if your profile allows you to control the skills you claim.

Finally, don’t judge people too harshly for endorsement requests that seem out of line. It’s entirely possible the person in the request has no knowledge of it and never claimed that skill.

Just to be on the safe side, I’m warning everyone. Even if you receive a notification, you may consider bogus any request to endorse me for:

  • Cooking
  • Sense of direction
  • Anything remotely athletic

Trust me – the software did it.

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  1. Count of Orange

    So, I should not invite you to the annual cross-country office-chair-vaulting potluck? I guess I’ll go it alone again this year.

    1. Rebecca Lyles Post author

      Haha! I would likely end up in Temecula, in inappropriate footwear, with my macaroni and cheese from Trader Joe’s.


May 15, 2016
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dyslexiaWords beginning with per- or pre- can tempt you to reverse letters, even if you don’t have dyslexia. Some cases seem related to regional pronunciations, and others are just laziness. A few of them are funny and, of course, you would never say them.

But others are probably lurking in your vocabulary somewhere and you might be surprised to learn their correct spellings and pronunciations.

How often have you heard someone say this:

  • I need to get my perscription refilled. (prescription)
  • This course has some perequisites. (prerequisites)
  • Do whatever you like – it’s your perogative. (prerogative)
  • Who can perdict the winner? (predict)
  • There’s a perponderance of corruption in the city council. (preponderance)
  • I just love blackberry perserves. (preserves)

And the reverse, in writing as well as in speaking:

  • The group will preform a Beethoven symphony. (perform)
  • The runners were covered with prespiration. (perspiration)
  • Line A must be prependicular to Line B. (perpendicular)
  • If you presist in this behavior, you will be punished. (persist)
  • I can’t help it – I’m so preturbed about the situation! (perturbed)
  • What are you – a prevert? (pervert)

More of these reversals happen in pronunciation than in writing, but I’ve seen several of them written. By people who should know better. Some could be typos, and a few will not trigger a Spellchecker alert because they are legitimate words. Preform, for example, is a word. It just doesn’t mean the same thing as perform. If you’re the least bit uncertain about a pre- or per- word, you might want to look it up before using it in a business presentation, a document, or even an email or Facebook post.

If you perfer to be preceived as percise, prehaps I can presuade you to take percautions before you become a prepetrator of this less-than-prefect practice, placing you in a percarious position … premanently.

But if you’re determined to insult someone, I must admit that “PREE-vert” has a deliciously nasty ring to it.

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May 8, 2016
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wheelbarrowI’ve never been a fan of baby talk, even when babies do it. It’s bad enough that parents (and grandparents) encourage it by laughing at the adorable tot’s consonant substitutions, but when they do it themselves, it sets a confusing example.

Surely a child’s language development is seriously delayed every time he hears an adult say, “Aw, wook at him cute widdle toes …How old are you? Fwee?”

I’ve observed the same phenomenon when native English speakers, in trying to communicate with native Spanish speakers, speak English with (their idea of) a Spanish accent. It sounds ridiculous and is both confusing and condescending to the Spanish speaker. Maybe adults think speaking in baby talk makes them somehow more understandable to the child. I always imagine babies thinking, “What the <bleep> is wrong with you?”

Despite years of hearing baby talk, many children grow up to speak correctly. Gradually they listen to adults on television, teachers in their schools, speech therapists (surprise!) … and they figure out most of it. But some words have a harder time than others in making the transition from playpen to board room.

A shocking number of adults never completely graduated from baby talk, even if they don’t realize it. Here are three words that, when mispronounced, suggest the speaker needs a nap:

  • Wheelbarrow (not wheelbarrel or wheelborrow). It contains neither the word barrel nor the word borrow. The barrow part rhymes with narrow.
  • Roller coaster (not rolly coaster). The fact that it is, indeed, rolly does not excuse putting that word in its name.
  • Kindergarten (not kindygarden or kinnygarden). It’s from German, where kinder means children. But that doesn’t give us a pass to mangle kinder and half-translate the rest to garden—even though that’s literally what it means.

The cuteness associated with baby talk decreases rapidly after about the age of two, and is completely gone by the time you start elementary school. So if you’re still saying words like this, don’t be surprised if your co-workers (instead of gathering for cake in the break room) chip in and buy you a dictionary for your birfday.

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May 1, 2016
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oversiteYes, that’s a real headline. What’s wrong with it?

Sight, site, and cite—two nouns and a verb, all with identical pronunciations but different meanings. They’re called homophones [].

A quirk of English that people who write newspaper headlines are supposed to know about. [].

To set the record straight, here are some definitions:

  • Sight – the ability to see or something that is seen
  • Site – a physical or Internet location
  • Cite – to quote a source as proof or confirmation (notice anything about this post?)

A person with the power of sight can see a sight, perhaps a building site or a website, then cite a published picture to verify its existence.

Some of these variations have nothing to do with the root words:

  • Insight – an intuitive understanding of a person or thing [].
  • In-site (note hyphen) – within a particular Internet location
  • Incite – to encourage violent or unlawful behavior

If a programmer does not have insight into the peculiarities of in-site software navigation, the resulting frustration could incite users to write nasty reviews.

Other variations have distant ties to the original root meanings:

  • Oversight – watchful or responsible care. Also a failure to notice something [].
  • Oversite – (construction) a layer of concrete on the ground, below a slab of flooring [].
  • Overcite – to excessively quote footnotes, sources, or links to outside articles (what kind of moron would do that?)

Despite careful oversight of the construction process, an oversight can occur, allowing a flaw in the oversite and leading to a lawsuit in which the attorney will inevitably overcite the case.

If you’re not talking about a layer of concrete on the ground under the subflooring, oversite is the wrong word. (See newspaper headline illustration. It should have said oversight.)

If you’re still reading, congratulations!

By now you’re also painfully aware of the single correct usage of the word overcite. The user-hostile1 practice of overciting infuriates and annoys the reader2. It reduces readability to almost zero3.

1 User-hostile is the opposite of user-friendly.
2 That would be you.
3 Well, not absolutely zero because you are still reading

But unless you react to them by repeatedly pounding your head on a slab of concrete under the floor, neither oversite nor overcite has anything to do with concussions.

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April 24, 2016
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conciereI get it. French words are mysterious and unpronounceable. Half the letters are silent, and often it’s hard to tell which ones they are. We Americanize some French words, but not others.

The most thankless job must be teaching French pronunciation to teenagers in the Midwest. “Shape your mouth as if you were saying oooh, but then say eeee. And there’s no state called Illinoiz.”

But it’s baffling when we refuse to make some sounds … just because.

Exhibit A: The zh sound at the end of concierge. I’ve heard many people pronounce it conciere, as if the final ge were silent.

Exhibit B: It’s not as if Americans can’t make that sound. It occurs in dozens of English words, and many of those words did not come from French. Few people have trouble pronouncing the sound in measure, casual, seizure, television, or amnesia.

In some regions of the US, the zh sound is hardened. At least it’s not ignored.

Where’s your car?
In the grodge.

What color’s your new sofa?

Whatcha doin’ with them flowers?
Makin’ a COR-sodge.

Many people swear they have heard concierge pronounced conciere in hotels, by people who work there and they should know. News flash! They don’t. (Know, that is.) Many tradesmen have been known to string bob wire and build masonary walls.

I could almost understand pronouncing it con-see-AIRDGE.  But if you insist on pronouncing it without the zh sound, then I must insist that you go to a spa for a massa, gather your entoura, and take a trip to Baton Rou.

Bon voya.

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