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Columns : Influential Voice - Kim Welcome Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Using Formal vs Informal Speech at Work
By Kim Welcome
Mar 21, 2013 - 2:30:35 PM

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Many languages have two forms; the standard and then a variation of colloquialism, dialect and slang which is indigenous to specific regions and groups of people. In the Bahamas, though we speak English, we have our own dialect and colloquialism that we as a people recognize as part of our Bahamian culture. Our unique accent and phrasing is what makes our speech colorful and expressive. Dialect is an important part of culture; it connects us and creates a feeling of familiarity.  

What we do have to keep in mind is dialect is defined as nonstandard  spoken language, which indicates it is not best suited for the workplace. For example if you go to the beach in a pair of cut off shorts no one would think anything of it, but it would be inappropriate in most work settings, even on casual day. The same concept applies to our speech. You should not only look the part, but you should sound the part.  

Here are just a few tips for converting informal to formal speech.  

Use your tenses: He said instead of He say

Use words appropriately: She’s here instead of She reach

Use possessives where necessary: That’s Joan’s report instead of That’s Joan report or That’s Joan own

Be aware of what is considered slang i.e.: He’s not in his office instead of He’s ain’ in his office

Put is where it should be: Who is that? instead of Who that is?

Use the verb to be correctly: He’s usually in his office instead of He is be in his office  

If the use of formal speech doesn’t come naturally, get a partner and resolve to use only formal speech for four weeks until it becomes a habit.  Informal speech in professional situations may be perceived as being too relaxed or even inept. A powerful way to enhance your professional image is to speak well.  

Kim Welcome helps professionals and companies to become more effective communicators through training and coaching for more info www.influentialvoice.com.

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