a jumble of words
Details like the right words and grammar do matter at work. (Photo: Pixabay)

Kindly Or Please?
We often use the words “kindly” and “please” interchangeably – but they don’t mean the same. “Kindly” is an instruction – it is like saying “Do this – and do it with a kind smile”. Ironically, this is why we often use “kindly” when we are slightly irritated with someone! People can pick this up and misinterpret it as a polite e-mail… not the results you want, is it? “To be on the safe side, use the most polite term ‘please’”, advises Petrisha Sun, principal consultant of Language Works, who trains corporate clients in business language skills.

“Please revert” Or “Please reply”?
Revert has three main meanings: To return to a previous state, to return to a topic discussed previously, and to return to somebody’s ownership. So the correct phrase is “please reply”. “Anyway, this phrase is now a cliché – so it may be better to create a unique new line to suit your personality at work,” says Petrisha. For example, says, “I’d be happy to speak with you more about this soon.”

It’s Or Its?
“It’s” is a short form of “it is”. For example, “It’s a hot day”. But “its” means the thing belongs to someone or something. So “The report is almost ready, but some of its details are still missing.” The good news is you can avoid the problem completely. “In work e-mails, it is often better to avoid short form words like ‘it’s’, ‘can’t’, ‘don’t’, or ‘shouldn’t’. These can be seen as too casual, and less professional. They are not wrong, but decide if you want that casual tone in your e-mails,” explains Petrisha.

Advice Or Advise?
You can ask for advice, or your can ask someone to advise you. “Advice” is a noun (or thing). But “advise” is a verb (or “doing” word). Put it in this way: In normal life, using the words in the wrong way is probably not going to cause you any problems, but at work, you win points if you use them correctly. It’s the same with “practice” and “practise” – a practice is a thing, like a Law Practice (or company). To practise means you are “doing” something – for example, “I will practise playing the piano for an hour.”

Irregardless Or Regardless?
“People often use ‘irregardless’ now, but it’s not a proper word – you can’t find it in the dictionary,” explains Petrisha. Plus, it is confusing: “Ir” means not and regardless also means not. So are you saying you cannot, not do it… does that mean you can do it? Or do you mean you cannot do it? To avoid confusion, it is better to use “regardless”  or “irrespective”. Just remember how we say it in the National Pledge: ‘Regardless of race, language, or religion…’”

Affect Or Effect?
“Affect” is a verb (or “doing” word) which means “to influence”. For example, “Her sadness did not affect him.” But “effect” is a noun (or thing). It has a similar meaning to “result”. For example, “We filled the stage with flowers and the effect was beautiful – it looked like a garden.”

Text: Anne-Marie Eu, The Singapore Women’s Weekly, November 2014 / Additional Reporting: Sylvia Ong
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