English is a tough language. For those of us that grew up speaking it, it’s not difficult – only at times, but for someone where English is a second language, it can be really confusing. There are a lot of rule and lots of exceptions. I’ve personally learned some Spanish and I’ve found out how complicated English really is – it’s tough!
I have a team of developers in India I’ve helped manage and, over the years, I’ve kept track of some English pitfalls we’ve run into. As I look through the communication, there are a bunch of items I’ve had to repeat several times. I get that it’s not easy to learn things one way (Indian English) and then have to all of a sudden switch how you talk to another way – especially when it’s the same language, like English. You’ve learned one way, which is what you learned in school and how your friends talk but then going to American English, you find how have to make lots of adjustments, which are subtle.
Here is a compilation of the notes I’ve kept and hopefully they’ll help you learn some of the finer points of speaking and writing American English. I’ll say “correct” or “incorrect” or sometimes say “right” or “wrong” and so on but my aim is to explain what sounds natural to the American English speaker’s ear, so it’s more like, what’s better / what sounds better to us – not really wrong or incorrect in most cases. But yes, sometimes it is just plain wrong.
This list is meant to help you sound more like an American when you write and talk, that’s it. That’s the goal of this article (which keeps growing).
I’m not a grammar expert. The goal here is just to explain what sounds right. If you want to dig further into the meanings and real reasons, feel free to do that. A great resource (much better than this page – and more correct) is the Spoken English Cafe.
First, a tip on pronunciation…
When speaking English, I noticed most Indians put emphasis on the first syllable of most words but Americans tend to put emphasis on the second syllable more often.
Here’s an example: developer
- Indian: de-vel-oper
- American: de-vel-oper
To us, when the emphasis is on the first syllable of this word, we hear “devil upper” and that doesn’t sound right to us. It has nothing to do with being a programmer / developer and we’re not sure what the Devil is doing there. 🙂
This will be hard to get used to changing but it’s something to listen for and try to focus on.
Now, on to phrases and examples…
Here are a few things with communication – talking.
-Answering a Question
Me: “Is it still not working?”
My team: “Yes, it is still not working.”
I asked if it wasn’t working and the first thing I heard was “yes” but the actual answer is no. Americans don’t talk in this confusing of a way… even though you’re technically answering it correctly.
We would say, “No, it’s not working.”
This is such a small word, yet it causes so much trouble. 🙂
First (just to get this out of the way), when we speak, we really almost never emphasize the word “the” since it’s a little word and doesn’t mean too much when used properly. I notice some people on my team talk this way, like: “We have to put THE database on the same server.” It’s fine but that’s just not how we talk. I understand in Tamil or maybe Hindi, that kind of thing maybe matters more.
The only time we emphasize saying “the” is when we want to show that it is THE authority. It’s the top. It’s the best. It’s the only one – that kind of thing. Emphasizing “the” when speaking loses its power when you emphasize it too much.
Secondly, the trouble with “the” mainly comes down to adjectives and nouns.
- Incorrect: “Let’s post that on the Facebook.”
- Correct: “Let’s post that on Facebook.”
In the incorrect example, when you put “the” in front of “Facebook” you’re turning Facebook from a noun into an adjective and the noun is missing. We’re left asking ourselves, “the Facebook… what?” Adding “the” makes “Facebook” an adjective (describing something) but then you don’t say what you are describing. It’s incomplete.
Another example: “client”
- Incorrect: “We need to ask client.”
- Correct: “We need to ask the client.”
This is where it gets tricky, of course (English) is difficult). The incorrect version sounds like a cave man – very primitive. Adding “the” here helps in a few ways. It tells us how many there are and it sounds nicer. Again, I’m not an English expert here – I’m really just explaining what sounds right to Americans.
“Please advice us”
Using “advice” as a verb is wrong in American English. It is considered to be a noun. So, it is supposed to be “advise” and not “advice.”
You can’t [noun] something bu you can [verb] something.
The correct American English is: “Please advise us.”
“FYKI” and Kindly
Instead of “FYKI” (for your kind information), just omit “kind” and say “FYI” (for your information). I’m not sure why it’s kind, nice, friendly, or easy to get along with but we don’t say that. 🙂
And instead of saying “kindly” a lot, maybe just change that to “please” if you want to sound more… ‘Merican! Our first thought is, “How do I do it kindly? Am I doing it in a mean way right now and I need to change to doing it kindly? Why do they think I’m mean?”
- Instead of: “Kindly move to the back.”
- Say: “Please move to the back.”
“Email Id” vs. “Email address”
Also, another one I saw was “Id” instead of “ID” for the word “identification.” The proper abbreviation is ALWAYS “ID”. The word “Id” is something I think Freud came up with if I remember Psychology from my high school days. It’s entirely different.
In American, we don’t say “email ID” but we always say “email address” so change “ID” to “address.” Sending something to an ID sounds wrong but sending to an address sounds right to us. Also, your “ID” (identification) sound like something important like your driver’s license or Social Security card – not something so minor like an email address.
“On the website” vs. “in the website”
In the US, when we think of the website and computers, it’s on the screen. It’s not inside the screen, like where all the monitor components are. That’s why we say “on the website” instead of “in the website” when writing and speaking.
“Please do the needful”
Until I started talking with Indians, I didn’t know the word “needful” even existed. That’s a strange word to us. Instead of that, we would say:
“Please take care of what needs to be done.”
“Please take care of this.”
“Where” vs. “were” vs. “we’re”
Believe it or not, there’s a big difference with these words. Which one you use will depend on what you’re saying.
- Example: “Where are the files?” (location)
- Example: “We were looking for that” (verb)
- Example: “We’re looking for that” (contraction of “we” and “are”)
- Wrong Example: “…the CMS we use has a function, were you can upload…”
Saying “client” vs. “the client”
It’s never “Client wants to do this…” but instead, “The client wants to do this…”
When you don’t include “the”, it kind of sounds like a caveman to us or something (“Me want food” or “Client want discount… ughhh.”). 🙂
Also, let’s use their name when we can to show that we think of them as more than just “the client.”
- Example: “The client wants us to do this…”
- Example: “[Mark:] Please do this…”
Saying “got” or “have got” so much
I am seeing this word used in a general purpose kind of way and how it’s being used doesn’t sound quite right – it doesn’t sound like how we talk.
- “Since the Brunch had got over on June 12th…”
- “We have got this…”
Kids tend to use “got” like this, not adults.
I would say the above two lines like this, respectively:
- “Since the Brunch was over on June 12th…”
- “We have received this…”
I’d say just try not to use the word “got” so much and instead replace it with words like “was” or “received” or word it another way. Got it? 🙂
And I see “have” used too much, like this…
- “We have worked on the changes…”
- “We have fixed the problem…”
- “I have understood what you…”
We really don’t talk or write like that too much. Just remove “have” to sound more American…
- “We worked on the changes…”
- “We fixed the problem…”
- “I understood what you…”
Americans are efficient. We don’t like extra words. We like it when you get to the point. English is very linear – all in a line. We don’t dance around what we’re saying or dance around an answer, saying everything else but what was asked. We give straight answers that are confident.
- Incorrect: “Please Use Same Username/Password as you have got in Email.”
- Correct: “Please use the same username and password you received via email.”
I used “received” instead of “have got” and I fixed all the unnecessary capitalization.
So no, you can’t just capitalize random words or nouns – there are rules. In this case, they aren’t proper nouns. Only capitalize proper nouns.
“We have couple of Clarification in this form”
Just say “question” instead. That sounds better.
There’s no reason whatsoever to capitalize “Clarification”. It’s not a proper noun or the title of something. We just don’t randomly capitalize words in case you were wondering. 🙂
The above line should be: “We have a couple of questions about this form”
And a couple really means two – not a bunch, but we see it as two. If you say a couple, we’re expecting two – as in: “We’ll get back to you in a couple of hours.” which would mean in two hours.
If two hours pass with no response, then we’re going to ask what is going on – which brings me to the next point…
Promises and Deadlines are More Literal to Us
In business especially, when you promise something at a certain time, we’re expecting it at that exact time – no later.
In our minds, you’ve negotiated an exact time and that’s a promise – a contract, almost. You can possibly adjust it and change it but not at the last minute and for sure, not after the time has passed.
If today is Friday and you promise something on Tuesday, you could possibly say on Monday that it’ll be on Wednesday but if Tuesday comes and you say you need more time, that’s not being professional. If Tuesday passes without even a word about what’s going on, that’s very bad.
It’s also up to you to give updates and report. We shouldn’t have to ask you. You are expected to provide updates and confirm something will happen – at least once. If it’s an appointment, that’s not necessary usually.
If you do set or agree to an appointment, you’re expected to be on time. There’s maybe a 5 minute grace period. This is because we’re busy and have things to do. Being later than 5 minutes is very disrespectful. If there is a problem like with traffic or something, call ahead (or maybe text – depending on the situation) as soon as you know there’s a problem and explain the delay. If there’s truly a big emergency, then you can later be excused from missing the appointment, of course – we’re not that unreasonable.
“As per clients requirement”
It should have been: “as per the client’s requirement”
For example: “We have changed firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com mail address on Contact Us page as per clients requirement.”
Should just be this: “We have changed firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com on the Contact Us page.”
We know it’s an email address so mentioning “mail address” is redundant, extra, and we’re wondering why it’s being mentioned. English is more efficient. It’s more linear, too. If you list an email address, we see it and know what it is. Don’t say it’s an email address. That’s just wasting time.
Capitalization / mandatory / statements, not questions
Our example: “Please let us know if we need to make all fields Mandatory for this form?”
Why is “Mandatory” capitalized? It’s not a proper noun.
Also, instead of “mandatory” or “compulsory”, please say “required” since it’s less strong sounding.
Lastly, this is not a question. It’s a statement, so no question mark is needed.
This should be: “Please let us know if we need to make all fields required for this form.”
- Instead of: “Please let me know if this schedule will work for you?”
- Say: “Will this work for you? Please let me know”
- Instead of: “Please let us know you want the past events to be migrated?”
- Say: “Please let us know if you want the past events migrated.”
- Instead of: “Please let me know if you want to meet today?”
- Say: “Please let me know if you want to meet today.”
This one is close, but…
- Instead of: “We would like to check with if you have the login credential of the live website or shall I ask the client about it?”
- Write: “We would like to check on something. Do you have the login credentials of the live website? If not, should I ask the client about it?”
We change this because the first example was not really a question. Just adding a question mark to a statement does not make it a question. Lots of Americans make this mistake in emails especially but it’s good to know and watch out for.
What local machine? There are several here… my paper shredder, the printer, the coffee machine. Which machine? Oh, my computer! Why not just say my computer then? It’s more specific and we don’t call computers “machines”. 🙂
- Example (wrong): “Select the file that you have saved in your local machine”
- Example (correct): “Select the file that you have saved on your computer”
And I can’t save it “in” my computer. I don’t open it up and put it in there. It’s “on” the computer because it’s on the hard drive, on the screen, or on the desktop, etc.
“Given below” or “above mentioned”
You can’t give something below – at least to us, you can’t. 🙂 Just say below.
- Incorrect: “Given below are the chosen Home page and Inside page designs.”
- Correct: “Below are the chosen home page and inside page designs.”
And you don’t capitalize Home or Inside because they’re NOT proper nouns.
- Original: “We will take care of the above mentioned updates today.”
This is one my mom even notices because she used to contact insurance companies at her job and got emails that said things like this.
Instead of “the above mentioned updates” go with “the updates mentioned above”
When you do it correctly like this, you saying:
“the [what] mentioned [where]”
versus the incorrect:
“the [where] mentioned [what]”
See?? That doesn’t work.
- Better: “We will take care of the updates mentioned above today.”
- Instead of: “We have linked the page to the given URL.”
- Say: “We linked the page to that URL.”
We don’t say “given” here and don’t understand who gave it or why a URL was given (we might think “listed” in that case – we don’t give it, we listed it). I also removed “have” because that’s not needed / it’s extra.
- Instead of: “We have completed the below updates”
- Write: “We completed the updates below”
This is because when it’s “below updates” the word “below” is an adjective describing the updates, like, WHAT KIND of update it is. If you say “updates below” then you’re describing WHERE the updates are instead of what kind of update it is. The ordering of the words matters here.
“Maybe” vs. “may be”
Make sure you use this word correctly. There are different meanings if it’s used as one word or two.
- One word: “Maybe we will go to the park today.” (uncertainty)
- Two words: “That may be true. I’m not sure.” (verb / more factual)
You could say “that may be what you want” but that’s a different meaning. The “be” is a verb here and they’re separate words then (“maybe” is not a verb – when you separate the words, you’re trying to make it a verb).
“Sometime” vs. “some time”
“Doing mock up will take sometime for us.”
“Doing a mock up will take some time for us”
It should be 2 words here because it will take us some amount of time. When you say “sometime” it’s an actual designation of time – not an amount of time.
– “I will do that sometime for you” (not sure at what time)
– “I will need some time in order to do that for you” (an amount of time)
Or think of the one word vs. two word thing like this:
- The server is back up
- The server backup has been restored
See the difference? You wouldn’t say “The server is backup” because “backup” means a copy of all the files as a backup. It’s back up because it was down. This is why one word or two words matters.
“Set up” vs. “setup”
- Verb: “Let’s set up the new website.”
- Noun: “Let’s go to the setup and make changes.”
“Work out” vs. “workout”
- Incorrect: “We are also trying to workout a solution for this bug.”
This means you’re trying to lift weights and do some running in order to find a solution. That’s probably not what you mean. 🙂
- Correct: “We are also trying to work out a solution for this bug.”
- workout = a noun meaning lift weights
- work out = to come up with a solution
“Anyway” vs “any way”
The space matters.
- Wrong: “Please let us know if we can help on this in anyway.”
You mean in any way, not anyway – as in, “It was raining but we went anyway.” where anyway means regardless.
- Correct: “Please let us know if we can help on this in any way.”
- “any way” is used like: “in any way possible”
- “anyway” means regardless
You never, ever say “in anyway”.
“A” vs. “Any”
I’m not sure how to explain this one, so I’ll give an example:
- Incorrect: “This is necessary in case a theme update or any plugin upgrade breaks the website.”
What you mean is “any of the plugins” but just say “any plugin” doesn’t sound right. Here are some better ways:
- Correct: “This is necessary in case a theme update or a plugin upgrade breaks the website.”
- Correct: “This is necessary in case a theme update or any of the plugin upgrades breaks the website.”
So, think before using the word “any” when writing or speaking.
“inprogress” / “goto” / “incase” / “inorder” / “upto”
All of these are two words, not one… like, always.
- Correct: “in progress”
- Correct: “go to”
- Correct: “in case”
- Correct: “in order”
- Correct: “up to”
- Correct: “You can go to him in case you have any questions in order to get the right answer.”
I sent in a ticket to a company I deal with and I can tell their support is in India because I received this response:
“Please mail us back incase of any queries!”
Let’s unpack this…
- “Mail us” – send you a letter? You mean email, so say email to avoid confusion.
- “incase” – that’s not one word, it’s two. I don’t know where this comes from but it’s incorrect and looks kind of lazy, sloppy, or too casual. Say “in case” instead.
- “any queries!” – we don’t say queries but we say questions. The exclamation point is too much. Overusing an exclamation point or using it for situations where it’s not needed looks fake.
Instead, say this:
“Please send us an email if you have any questions.”
No spaces before colons
There’s never a space before a colon.
- Incorrect : see that space?
- Correct: no space
Spaces just on the outside or parentheses
Spaces just go on the outside – not inside. And there are spaces on the outsides, not no spaces.
- Correct: He likes (really likes) that girl.
- Incorrect: He likes( really likes )that girl. (wrong twice… or four times, actually)
Spaces just on the outside of quotes
Spaces just go on the outside – not inside. And there are spaces on the outsides, not no spaces.
- Correct: He said, “Please come over here.”
- Incorrect: He said,” Please come over here. “
Dash / negative / minus
some task: – 1 hour
It looks like -1 hour, which would mean we’re charging -1 / charging a negative.
some task: 1 hour
And then this thing:
(what is that?) can sort of turn into part of a smiley face or emoticon or emoji.
Yes, this is picky but this just looks strange and we don’t want people thinking they are negative signs. Around numbers, use colons unless it’s supposed to be a negative number, then yes, use the minus sign.
“The same” and “these”
When you end a sentence with “the same” and then don’t say anything after that, we’re kind of left wondering “the same what?” We’re left hanging. So instead, refer to what you mean without saying “the same.”
- Original: “I am attaching the same”
- Better: “I am attaching the images”
(and then make sure you attach the images, of course) 🙂
More – just replace “the same” with “it”.:
- Original: “If you want us to remove the Member sign-up link please let us know, we will update the same for you.”
- Better: “If you want us to remove the Member sign-up link please let us know, we will update it for you.”
To us, “the same” make us think “the same what?” since there’s nothing after it describing what it is. There’s usually something after it when we say it – like “the same game” or “the same account” or “the same person” etc. Just saying “the same” sound incomplete. The easy way to fix this is just say “it” instead because it’s shorter and makes sense because it refers back that what we’re talking about.
Another weird one for me is the word “these” for some reason. When I hear it, I think, “OK, these what? What is that referring to?” So when “these” appears at the end of a sentence, it can sometimes kind of leave me hanging – where I ask, “these… what?”
Here’s an example:
- “We will get back to you with an update on these.”
Sure, the sentence before it might say what it’s referring to but not always. It’s better to include it so things are clear, like this:
- “We will get back to you with an update on these items tomorrow.”
I added “items” and I also added when we’ll get back to this client so they know and don’t have to wonder (less open-ended and more confident).
- Instead of: “The result is same.”
- Say: “The result is the same.”
“Refer” vs “refer to”
- Instead of: “Please refer the email we have received from them.”
- Say: “Please refer to the email we have received from them.”
You always refer “to” something.
- Instead of: “…all the updates that you have posted on 24th June.”
- Say: “…all the updates you have posted on June 24th.”
- Or say: “…all the updates you have posted on the 24th of June”
“Turned down” vs. “turned off”
“We have turned down the staging website.”
Turned it down? From a setting of 10 to 4?
We say “turned off” in this case since it’s either on or off. Turning down something means not all the way off. You can’t have a staging site partially off.
It’s not snowing. Why does the first letter have a period and not the second? Why isn’t there a space between then?
This looks foreign to us.
To be safe, use “#” which is more modern. You can also say “Number” or “Item” but “No.” for number looks kind of old, like from the 1970s or something.
“Instruction” vs. “instructions”
We usually say “instructions” and that’s plural. It’s a list of instructions, not a list of instruction. You say instruction when it’s uncountable / too many. At that point, it’s a group, which is singular.
- Wrong: “this instructions”
- Right: “these instructions”
- Wrong: “the instruction” (not typically)
- Right: “the instructions”
“Those information” / “These information”
You should instead say “that information” because information is singular, not plural. It’s one thing… information – like a group of information where the group is one thing (please refer to the “uncountable items” note from earlier – and “informations” would be wrong).
- Incorrect: “We don’t have those informations.”
- Correct: “We don’t have that information.”
- Correct: “We don’t have the information.”
- Incorrect: “We need these PayPal account information”
- Correct: “We need your PayPal account information”
- Correct: “We need the PayPal account information”
“Few information” / “a few”
- Wrong: “Here are few information that we need from you.”
The proper way to use “few” is usually saying “a few” and it’s an adjective, which describes something. Saying “few information” just doesn’t sound right. The better way would be “a few bits of information” but that sounds too British. Just don’t use “few” with “information” ever. The two just don’t go together for us.
- Better: “Here is a list of information that we need from you.”
- Instead of: “…we have listed all the dentists and staffs under…”
- Say: “…we listed all the dentists and staff under…”
This is because it’s “the staff” – not many groups of staffs. When referring to one group of people, it’s singular and never plural – a singular group.
The only way we would really ever use the word “staffs” is if it was not referring to people but to some sticks – like a bunch of staffs or rods – in that context.
“A day or 2”
- Wrong: “We are working on this and we will have this resolved in a day or 2.”
- Right: “We are working on this and we will have it resolved in a day or two.”
- Right: “We are working on this and we will have it resolved in 1 to 2 days.”
Don’t mix word and digit formats for numbers. Stick to one and be consistent.
Saying “would” too much / “missed” / subject missing
I see “would” used wrong all the time:
- Wrong: “While creating this form she would have missed setting up the email template.”
In sentences like this, the word “would” means “would if” to us. OK, so she would have missed setting it up… if what?
What you mean is that “she didn’t do it” but you’re trying to be too nice about saying it or something. Just remove “would have” and it sounds better:
- Right: “While creating this form, she missed setting up the email template.”
Be more confident and absolute instead of so passive.
And I would probably not say “missed” – missed is like you tried to do something but missed. If you really tried and missed, you would have tried again. If you miss hitting something, like hitting the ball in baseball or cricket for example, you’ll try again. That is why this doesn’t work. You didn’t miss it, you just didn’t do it or you forgot. That’s why it wasn’t done. Saying you missed is almost like lying – or least it may sound that way to some of us. Missing implies trying.
- Right: “While creating this form, she did not set up the email template.”
Here’s a winner: “Hope you would have got my previous posting with the timeline for the project.”
– The subject is missing. Starting with the verb “hope” is sloppy, lazy, and not professional. It’s not good English. Who hopes? Oh, “I” hope. Include the subject.
– “would have got” – again, they would have received it if… what? How would they have received it? What would have needed to happen? They would have received it if you sent it, I guess. Are you asking them if you sent it or what?
- Right: “I was wondering if you received my previous post with the timeline for the project.”
I’m not hoping for it / not basing it on my hopes and dreams. I’m wondering because I did send it. I know I did.
I’m not asking if they “got” it but if they received what I sent to them. To “get” it means, they had to go and get it and since I sent it, they then receive what I sent.
And then just drop “would” in most cases to sound better:
- Original: “We would need a working login information for us to proceed with the updates.”
- Better: “We need a working login information for us to proceed with the updates.”
- Original: “We see that we have missed to include about the Google PageSpeed Insights results in our earlier report.”
- Better: “We noticed we didn’t include the Google PageSpeed Insights results in the report we sent earlier.
- Instead of: “Sorry, I missed to attached the spreadsheet.”
- We say: “Sorry, I forgot to attach the spreadsheet.”
To us, slipping is literally slipping on something lying on the floor and falling. We don’t use “slip” metaphorically except for “it slipped my mind” and that’s about it.
- Instead of: “Yes, this got slipped.”
- Say: “Yes, we forgot about this.”
- Or: “Yes, this slipped through the cracks.”
Just seeing “got slipped” by itself is not how we talk.
Omitting the subject / starting with “am”
Please do not omit the subject of the sentence when saying “am” as that is not professional (it doesn’t even qualify as slang it’s so odd).
- Original: “Below am sending you all…”
Who is? You are – so say that you are.
- Better: “Below, I am sending you all…”
- Wrong: “If you could notice we have used different domain name…”
This doesn’t sound quite right. It sounds too nice maybe… I’m not sure how to explain it. You’re asking if I can notice. Yes, I can. Oh, you want me to notice maybe?
It’s like… if I can notice – yes, I can notice something. The question isn’t if I can do that or not. I can. I am able. You want me to notice or take note of something.
- Right: “Note that we’re using a different domain name.”
- Right: “Please note that a different domain name is being used.”
And the word “a” was missing before “different domain name”. That’s just bad English.
“Are a list”
- Wrong: “The following are the list of work done on the website:”
“List” is singular so it should be “is” instead of “are”. There’s one list with many items on it but it’s still just a single list.
- Better: “The following is the list of work that was done on the website:”
- Better yet: “Here is a list of completed work:”
People know it was done on the website (where else would we do it?), so there’s no need to say that. It’s extra information. Skip it.
“On the other note”
This just doesn’t sound right. Please say “On another note” instead.
“You can connect me” and “id”
- Instead of: “You can connect me in the Skype using [username] id.”
- Say: “You can connect with me on Skype using my [username] username.”
I can connect you? Did you fall apart? Are pieces of your body everywhere? Help! Someone call 911!
What you mean to say is that we can connect with you.
Id. What is id? It’s that thing Sigmund Freud talked about, right?
Oh, you mean ID, like saying identification. Oh, OK, I get it now. Not your id but your ID. Americans only say ID to mean identification, like an official document or card like a driver’s license. We don’t use that for usernames (they’re not as official) – we say “username” when it has to do with computers and logging in.
And we’re not in Skype. We can’t somehow climb into our computers and be in it. With computers, we see things on the screen, not inside it (behind the screen in the circuits), so we generally say “on” when it comes to computers. Although I guess we do say log in to an account.
Oh, and speaking of that, a login is your username and password that you use to log in – see how I used “login” and “log in” there? The first is a noun (a thing) and the second is a verb (an action).
“It’s” versus “its”
This one is confusing and many Americans get this wrong all the time but there’s a very simple way to remember it.
The confusing thing is that an apostrophe can either be used in a contraction or to show ownership… so, how do you know?
The very easy way to remember this is when you see “it’s” it always means “it is” – simple, right? When you read “it’s” in a sentence, just think “it is” in your head and that will get you used to knowing the right way.
Apostrophes / “URL’s” vs. “URLs”
Adding an apostrophe to something never makes it plural.
- Incorrect: “Looks good, just fix the site map page that has reference to staging URL’s.”
That’s not right. If you want to show possession, then it’s actually correct – as in: “What is the URL’s domain?” but you would hardly ever use it like this.
- Correct: “Looks good, just fix the site map page that has reference to staging URLs.”
And then here are more examples of how if you’re trying to make something plural, you should not use an apostrophe. If you’re trying to show possession (like, “the dog’s tail”) then you would use an apostrophe – so these are examples of people trying to make things plural:
- Incorrect: “We should watch the video’s”
- Correct: “We should watch the videos”
- Incorrect: “Back in the 1990’s”
- Correct: “Back in the 1990s”
- Incorrect: “Look at all the TV’s”
- Correct: “Look at all the TVs”
- Incorrect: “Please pass down more menu’s”
- Correct: “Please pass down more menus”
- Incorrect: “We need to ask our member’s”
- Correct: “We need to ask our members”
- Incorrect: “Turn off the light’s”
- Correct: “Turn off the lights”
- Correct: “The car’s color is really cool”
- Incorrect: “The cars color is really cool”
- Correct: “Look at those guys’ cool cars” (multiple guys)
Americans get this wrong all the time and once you learn this rule, you’ll see it wrong everywhere – it’s wrong all over the place. I guess I should have warned you before telling you this because now it might start bugging you like it does for me – ignorance is bliss. 🙂
“A sample text”
It’s just “sample text” without “a” in front of it. It’s not “a text” but rather just “text” since text refers to a group of text (the “uncountable” thing applies here).
- Wrong: “We added a sample text below each image.”
- Right: “We added sample text below each image.”
FYI, You can say “I sent you a text” because it’s referring to an SMS message and people are omitting the word “message” there (as in “I sent you a text message”). The word text here is actually still an adjective (acting like a noun), describing the kind of message.
“Come” and “some”
With this line: “we have come with some plan for this year” there are a few things to adjust.
First, it’s better to say “come up with” as that’s how we say it. Just saying “come” is like there’s a word missing.
Second, when you say “some plan” it sounds like “any old plan” or “just some plan we had laying around” and it’s not anything special – it’s generic and we didn’t put any thought into it at all.
The word “some” here would not mean an amount – or least how I’m describing it and how it sounds to us. The way you’re writing it, it means that it’s unspecified.
So “some plan” here means an unspecified plan, not “a plan” – get it?
What I would say here is: “we have come up with a plan for this year”
Yeah, this one’s redundant. If you discuss something you’re going to talk about it, so we leave the “about” part out.
- Wrong: “We would like to discuss about the project.”
- Right: “We would like to discuss the project.”
- Original: “Here is what we have completed till date.”
I’m not even exactly sure what this means. I think it means what we’ve completed up until today. When I see this, I see “date” and wonder, “which date?”
Also, using “till” instead of “until” is seen as being kind of lazy and used as slang. It doesn’t really exist in the business world, so please don’t use it… unless you’re talking to a client about using a till in their garden. 🙂
- Right: “Here is what we have completed until today.”
- Better: “Here is what we have completed up until today.”
“…in the next 1 hour” / “…in another 15 minutes”
These are weird ones because we don’t talk this way. So, saying “I’ll talk to you in another 1 hour” is strange if there already wasn’t one hour attached to this in the past. Your saying another one, so there must have been a previous hour. That’s how we think. You mean, “I’ll talk to you in one hour” but adding “another” to it again, makes us think there was one before because you’re talking about another one.
Drop the “next” and drop the “another” and you’ve got it, basically.
- Incorrect: “…in another 1 hour”
- Incorrect: “…in an another hour”
- Correct: “…in another hour”
- Correct: “…in the next hour”
- Correct: “…in 15 minutes.”
And then stick to that time – the time you’re promising. Come through on your promises to gain trust with people.
“Code” / “codes” / “a code”
Computer language code is too numerous to count, so it’s always referred to as just “code” and not “a code” or “codes”.
- Incorrect: “We see that there was a code added.”
- Correct: “We see there was code added.”
Try to eliminate the word “that” from your writing and talking because it’s often not needed. See how I removed it?
To us, “a code” sounds like a code word or password or “enter a code to continue” or something like that. For example: “The safe has a code.” or “Enter a code into the keypad to open the door.”
You don’t ever refer to HTML code as “a code.” It’s just “code” as in “a bunch of code.”
And if you want to be even more clear, you’ll specify what kind of code it is.
- Correct: “There was some HTML coding added.”
- Correct: “There was some programming code added.”
“At [month] end”
- Instead of: “We will do this at June end.”
- Say: “We will do this at the end of June.”
- Incorrect: “January month”
- Incorrect: “Brown color”
- Incorrect: “Today evening”
To us, including something obvious is just extra, it isn’t needed and doesn’t sound right. We know that January is a month, so there’s no need to change January to an adjective that describes the month. Leave it as a noun. We know that brown is a color… again, no need to change it to describe a color since it’s already a color.
Hearing the extra word sounds strange to us. Americans speak more efficiently and to the point. We don’t dance around it and give extra information. It’s more linear.
Instead of saying “it will expire today evening” say “it will expire this evening” to sound more confident with your American English. This is because “today” is never an adjective. You’re trying to make it modify “evening” and it doesn’t work. You could say “it will expire today in the evening” but nobody really talks that way too often.
- Instead of: “We are still working to fix the issue with the Safari browser.”
- Say: “We are still working on fixing the issue with Safari.”
Using “overlooked” the wrong way
- Incorrect: “I overlooked the document and it was fine.”
What you’re trying to say is that you looked it over but you’re saying the opposite here. Overlooking means you missed it / you forgot it.
- Correct: “I looked over the document and it was fine.”
And here’s another one…
- Instead of: “This is an overlook from our side since there were issues…”
- Say: “We overlooked this since there were issues…”
There isn’t a physical place where you stood above it on an overlook. We only say “overlook” when we’re like at the Grand Canyon or some place like there where we can climb up and look down on something. You can overlook something (used as a verb) but when you try to use it as a noun meaning a verb, that really doesn’t work.
“Enquire” instead of “inquire”
I’m pretty sure we say “inquire” more in the US.
Inquire vs Enquire (dailywritingtips.com)
“In practice, enquire and enquiry are more common in British English, and inquire and inquiry are more common in US English, for both informal questions and formal investigations.”
And we don’t use this word much at all. We normally say “question” instead. If something is an inquiry, then it’s a pretty strong/formal kind of thing.
An example: “They’re doing an enquiry to find out why the money is missing.”
It sounds too formal or British.
- More American: “They’re doing an inquiry to find out why the money is missing.”
Commas / correct verbs
- Incorrect: “Sorry, if I was confusing in my earlier email.”
We get what you mean but this can be better.
– There should not be a comma there since it reads like this:
“Sorry (pause) if I was confusing in my earlier email.”
The comma disrupts the flow of the sentence here. It almost turns it into a conditional sentence that didn’t resolve. It’s kind of like “Sorry. If I was being confusing in my earlier email, then…”
– Also, with “I was confusing” were you being confusing or was your email confusing?
- Correct: “I’m sorry if the email I sent earlier was confusing.”
This sentence states:
- The email was confusing – not me.
- I am sorry (instead of leaving “I” out – this is less casual / more professional).
Questions and question marks
Here’s one more that I’ve been meaning to write. Once you understand this one, you’ll see people doing it wrong all the time – especially in emails.
- Incorrect: “I’m just wondering if you got a signed agreement from them yet?”
This a statement – not a question. There should NOT be a question mark at the end.
In the middle of writing it, maybe the writer forgot that they were writing a statement and thought they were writing a question. If you look at the second half of that sentence, it kind of looks like a question but it still isn’t.
Since questions have upward inflections at the end, you can read it in your head that way and it should sound wrong.
- Correct: “I’m just wondering if you got a signed agreement from them yet.”
- Correct: “I’m just wondering about something. Did you get a signed agreement from them yet?”
You can write this correctly these two ways:
- “I’m just wondering if you got a signed agreement from them yet.”
- “I’m just wondering, did you got a signed agreement from them yet?”
See the difference?
But here’s a good point – which of those two ways is the most effective?
It’s the second way – writing it as a question. When people read emails, they’re looking for answers and they’re scanning for items they need to react/respond to. When you use a question mark, that’s a good cue and it’s something they look for.
If you want an answer from someone, it’s sometimes best to ask a question and use a question mark at the end but do it properly by making sure you’re really asking a question – not putting a question mark at the end of a statement. Also, when writing an email, put the question at the end of the paragraph so it gets noticed – versus buried in the middle of a paragraph.
- Incorrect: “We have received contents for these pages.”
- Correct: “We have received the content for these pages:”
It’s a group – a singular group of things.
The only time we say “contents” is something like, “What are the contents of your bag?” and this sound pretty legal – like, you’re an officer speaking officially.
“Fill up” used the wrong way
When there’s a spreadsheet, we don’t fill it up – we fill it in. Saying this doesn’t sound right to us:
- Incorrect: “Can you please fill up these details.”
We put data IN a spreadsheet.
Filling something up usually has to do with liquid – like fill up a jug with water or fill up your gas tank with gas.
Try to avoid saying “fill up” with spreadsheets and instead say “fill in.” To us, “fill up” sounds like liquid – like, “fill that container up with water, please.”
- Correct: “Please put your data into the spreadsheet.”
“Inputs” used strangely
This is a new one I haven’t seen before…
- Incorrect: “Here are our inputs.”
I think this means “Here are our responses to your questions.”
If that’s correct, please say that instead of “inputs” which is also something we don’t say. If we were to say that, then it would be singular (“input”) unless you’re saying something like, “Check all the inputs for a faulty wire.”
“Latter” vs. “later”
I see someone was just confused by this one. It’s a subtle difference how it’s spelled but there’s a big difference in what it means.
With latter, it’s used like “the former or the latter” which means first or what followed. It’s kind of like a variable when you talk. If I mention two thing and then refer to the latter item, I’m referring to the second one.
Say “tomorrow” if it’s tomorrow.
- Instead of: “We will get back to you with a report by Thursday (10/8).”
- Say this: “We will get back to you with a report by tomorrow, Thursday (10/8).”
Here’s why… people forget what the date is. If it’s tomorrow, then mention it’s tomorrow. It just sounds like it’ll happen a lot sooner than specifying at date – as if that date is some distant time in the future. Saying “tomorrow” just sounds sooner, which is what you mean and what you want them to know. Don’t send them to a calendar to go figure it out.
“By” vs. “for” in relation to time
- This line: “We have scheduled to launch the new website by tomorrow, 8/2.”
means that sometime between right now and before tomorrow comes (tonight at midnight here), we’ll launch it. This is because they said “by tomorrow.” That means before tomorrow comes. The client might expect it to be done sometime today – during the day here and that’s not the right expectation and it’s not what we’re planning to do.
What you mean to say here is that it will be done tomorrow. When we’re more exact, we’re more confident and we should say it like this:
- Change it to: “We have scheduled to launch the new website tomorrow, 8/2.”
We have set it for then and we plan to get it done then.
See the difference?
- Instead of: “We will get it done by this week.” (we’re already in this week, so how will you get it done before this week starts?)
- Say: “We will get it done by the end of this week.”
As in: “…there is some issue with the theme.”
When you say it like that, it can either sound like “there’s just some issue… I don’t know what it is” or you might be thinking quantity and maybe you mean “there are some issues with the theme” or it sounds like you’re going to specifically list the issue. Usually, none of these things happen.
It’s better to say: “…there is an issue with the theme.” So, replace “some” with “a” or “an” instead.
It’s more formal and professional sounding. It makes it sound like you know what the issue is and that you’re on top of the situation.
“Remainder” vs “reminder”
This is simply just mixing up two words which are very similar.
- Instead of: “This is a gentle remainder that we have scheduled to upgrade your website…”
- Say: “This is a gentle reminder that we have scheduled to upgrade your website…”
They are completely different things, so saying “remainder” is not correct.
“Manufactures” vs “manufacturers”
This is another tough one and it’s just mixing up two similar words. I notice a lot of non-native English speakers get confused between “manufactures” and “manufacturers” for some reason. It’s tricky.
Here’s how it goes:
- Manufactures: this is a verb as in “he manufactures tabletops.”
- Manufacturers: this is a noun as in “there are many manufacturers that make tabletops.”
- Instead of: “Fixed the problem with displaying manufactures and products on the website.”
- Say: “We fixed the problem with displaying the manufacturers and products on the website.”
This one is strange because you’re using it right but it’s just not how we talk.
- Instead of: “There are totally 10 users on the current website…”
- Say: “There are 10 users in total on the current website…”
- Or say: “There is a total of 10 users on the current website”
We think of totally as “completely” and you’re using it to say there’s a total amount. It’s also kind of a slang word here – surfers use that word a lot. “Totally, dude!” 🙂
“Raised this issue” / “Raised this”
- This doesn’t really sound right to us: “We have raised this to the extension developers.”
I just sounds like you’re holding it up in the air for some reason. 🙂
- Instead say: “We have brought this up as an issue with the extension developers.”
- Instead of: “Since you raised this…”
- Say: “Since you brought this up…”
That’s not a word. It sounds weird and we don’t talk like this at all.
Just say “brought” instead.
“Take a call”
This is one of my favorites. You guys use it for so many things like:
- “At that time we’ll take a call.”
- “We might need to take a call.”
- “He should take a call.”
To us, it means take a phone call. What you mean is make a decision. We would say:
- “At that time we’ll make a decision.”
- “We might need to decide.”
- “He should make a choice.”
“Works” used the wrong way
- Instead of: “We have received your request on the SEO works”
- We say: “We have received your request on the SEO work”
It’s singular… pretty much always. It’s a group of work, not individual works – like tasks. They’re different things and we say them differently.
We do say things like: “it works” but that’s a verb, not a noun, like what is being discussed here.
It’s not “url” but “URL” – always. It’s an abbreviation that stands for “Uniform Resource Locator.”
Instead of “Changed the website admin url” in your blocks page entry, put “Changed the Website’s Admin URL” to look more professional.Oh, and something I see wrong pretty often is using periods with some abbreviations. When you use periods, make sure every letter gets one – including the final letter. Abbreviations are not IP addresses where the last letter doesn’t get a period.
- Incorrect: U.S.A
- Correct: U.S.A.
Even with your name, the last letter needs one – along with proper spacing, of course:
- Incorrect: R.B.Padmanabhan
- Incorrect: R.B Padmanabhan
- Correct: R.B. Padmanabhan
“Explain you” / “Confirm me” / “Reply me”
Ha! I love this one for some reason.
- Incorrect: “…we can explain you more about…”
Here’s how we think about it…
You can’t explain me (a person). Explaining me is saying I’m skin and bones. You can explain something to me though. You can explain about something. I can explain a problem to someone.
When you say “explain you” you’re making “you” the direct object of the sentence. You’re no longer explaining the issue, you’re explaining the person… and that just doesn’t sound right or make sense to us.
- Say: “…we can explain to you more about…”
- Say: “…we can explain the details to you more about…”
- Say: “…we can explain more of the details about…”
but “you” (a person) cannot be the direct object.
The same here:
- “Please confirm me whether I can email him directly.”
I can’t confirm you. I can confirm to you but asking me to confirm you sort of sounds like I have to confirm if you are alive or something. Maybe I can take your pulse but what does that have to do with emailing someone directly? 🙂
- Instead say: “Please confirm if I can email him directly.”
- Or say: “Please confirm with me if I can email him directly.”
And we don’t “reply you” but we “reply to you” – for example:
- Instead of: “Reply me”
- Say: “Reply back to me”
- Or say: “Write back to me in a reply”
- Instead of: “We checked this issue, we updated the price of a product from $3124 to $3120 which get affected on this page.”
- Say this: “We checked this issue. We updated the price of a product from $3124 to $3120, which affected the page:”
- There’s no need for “get” before affected.
- I made it 2 sentences since no conjunction (like “and”) was used to connect them.
- I added a colon at the end since the next line was a URL.
“A” vs “an”
I sometimes hear or see “an year” or “an habit” written sometimes. Another is “an user” I hear.
- Incorrect: “an year”
- Incorrect: “an habit”
- Incorrect: “an user”
- Correct: “a year” “a habit” “a user”
We only put “an” in front of something when the first part of the next word sounds like it’s starting with a vowel.
- Incorrect: “We have attached here an spreadsheet.”
- Correct: “We attached a spreadsheet here.”
You don’t need to say “have” so much and I changed the order of the sentence so it’s subject + verb + direct object + location because we didn’t attach a “here” but we attached a spreadsheet.
- Incorrect: “as per the design”
- Incorrect: “as per the requirements”
I don’t know why but we don’t say “as” here – we just say:
- Correct: “per the design”
- Correct: “per the requirements”
For example, “We did this per your requirements.”
If there are cents in a price, you ALWAYS go to 2 decimal points… always.
- Incorrect: “It will take 1 hour ($47.5) of time to add the field and test a single form.”
- Correct: “It will take 1 hour ($47.50) of time to add the field and test a single form.”
Yup, that’s almost completely backwards to us.
- Correct: “Only $47”
This is because “it’s only 47 dollars” – not “it’s 47 dollars only” – only what? Saying “only” at the end doesn’t resolve it for us, it brings up more questions because it’s at the end instead of before something. If you say “only” there must be something after it.
“Oh” vs. “naught” for a zero
When you guys say “404” it comes out as “four not four” but that’s not how we talk (we think: “OK, it’s four… but now it’s not four? Make up your mind.”). Saying “not” for “0” is kind of confusing for us and just not how we do it.
- Correct: “Four oh four”
- Correct” Four zero four”
Yeah, we sometimes put the letter “O” (we say, “oh”) in place of a zero. It’s technically wrong but it’s how most of us talk and it goes by unnoticed.
Also, for a number like “1001” we don’t say “one double zero one” but we say “one oh oh one” or “one zero zero one” instead.
“Zee” vs. “zed” for the letter “Z”
I’m not sure who Zed is and what he’s doing in the alphabet. 🙂 We say “zee” for the letter “Z”. Yes, your way is British English but this article is about how Americans talk, so I’m telling you. 🙂
- Correct: “Zee”
“Once in two years”
Instead of saying “They have to renew it once in two years” we would say, “They have to renew it every two years.”
More British / American English differences
- Correct: “Bathroom” or “restroom” instead of “loo”
- Correct: “Trash” instead of “bin”
- Correct: “Hood” instead of “bonnet” (on a car)
- Correct: “Trunk” instead of “boot” (on a car)
- Correct: “Windshield” instead of “windscreen” (on a car)
- Correct: “Tire” instead of “tyre”
- Correct: “Cell phone” instead of “mobile”
- Correct: “Cookies” instead of “biscuits”
- Correct: “Color” instead of “colour”
- Correct: “Gray” instead of “grey”
- Correct: “Green pepper” instead of “capsicum”
- Correct: “Apartment” instead of “flat”
- Correct: “First floor” or “ground floor” instead of floor 0 (zero)
- Correct: “Line” instead of “queue”
- Correct: “Take out” instead of “take away” (taking food to go / not eat there)
- Correct: “Mail” instead of “post”
- Correct: “Vacation” instead of “holiday”
- Correct: “Truck” instead of “lorry”
- Correct: “Elevator” instead of “lift”
- Correct: “Pajamas” instead of “pyjamas”
- Correct: “Aluminum” instead of “aluminium”
- Correct: “Apologize” instead of “apologise”
- Correct: “Behavior” instead of “behaviour”
- Correct: “Neighbor” instead of “neighbour”
- Correct: “Favorite” instead of “favourite”
- Correct: “Humor” instead of “humour”
- Correct: “Rumor” instead of “rumour”
- Correct: “Arbor” instead of “arbour”
- Correct: “Harbor” instead of “harbour”
- Correct: “Enamored” instead of “enamoured”
- Correct: “Plow” instead of “plough”
- Correct: “Mold” instead of “mould”
- Correct: “Cozy” instead of “cosy”
- Correct: “Soccer” instead of “football”
- Correct: “Tie” instead of “draw” (in sports with the result as the same score)
- Correct: “Mustache” instead of “moustache”
- Correct: “Specialty” instead of “speciality”
- Correct: “Parking lot” instead of “car park”
- Correct: “Gas” instead of “petrol”
- A blog (short for “weblog” (web log)) is software – one installation of the software.
- A blog post is a single post in a blog (in the software).
Saying “blogs” would mean there are multiple instances of blogging software installed on a website.
- Instead of: “Currently, there are around 2,420 blogs are available on the website and it is on WordPress.”
- Say this: “Currently, there are around 2,420 blogs posts on the website and it is using WordPress.”
It sounds better to us.
- This sounds weird: “We want to check with you if we can proceed with the plan that we shared in our earlier email last week.”
- This sounds better: “We want to check to see if we can proceed with the plan that we shared in our email send earlier last week.
Using something that indicates time as an adjective sounds strange and not right to us – an “earlier email” for example. Good adjectives to use before the word “email” would be:
But “earlier” is not a kind of email… an “earlier email” just doesn’t sound good.
You’re trying to indicate when it was sent, so don’t use “earlier” as an adjective. Instead, put it separately and not as an adjective before the noun – like I did above.
I also removed “with you” because we’re, of course, checking with you because we’re sending this email to you. Adding “with you” is not necessary and is seen as sort of being redundant. It doesn’t sound too strange but Americans tend to not add fluff like that to sentences (circular) but instead get to the point (more linear).
“Specially” vs. “Especially”
To us, specially makes it sound like it’s special and we don’t say this, so we say especially to say something should be emphasized. It sounds like you’re missing part of the word when you just say specially instead of especially and it doesn’t sound right to us. I believe specially is more British.
“If you could see…”
This is a phrase I hear often. You’re asking me to look at something but the way this is phrased, it seems like you’re first asking if I’m able to see things. Yes, I have eyes, I am able to see, and I’m not blind. You also know who I am and you know I’m able to see, so there’s just no need to check this every time. You’re starting way too far back. Are you going to also ask if I’m breathing? This is what this phrase sounds like to us. 🙂
So, yes, I can see.
Instead, say: “Please look at…” because that’s beyond finding out if I can see.
When I was young, I used to ask my mom, “Can I go outside?” and her response was, “I don’t know, can you?” which means she’s asking if I’m able and that’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking permission. Instead, I should have asked “Please may I go outside?”
See the difference?
- Instead of: “…we will get it completed on tomorrow.”
- Say: “…we will get it completed for tomorrow.”
We just don’t use “on” like this with “today” or “tomorrow.” We do say “on Tuesday” or “on Wednesday.”
What I see: “We analyzed more on the issue and…”
Moron? Who’s a moron (idiot)? 🙂
We don’t say it like that. It doesn’t hit our ears right.
- Instead of: “We analyzed more on the issue and…”
- Say: “We analyzed this issue some more and…”
- Or” “We did more analysis on this issue and…”
- Instead of: “We are now analyzing more on…”
- Say: “We are doing more analysis on…”
Saying “analyzed more on” doesn’t sound right to us. It’s just the wrong order. The words “more” and “on” just don’t usually go next to each other. It’s not the “moron” thing (that was just a joke) but how we talk. There’s usually a word between them or it’s in a different order. So if you want to sound more like an American, don’t use “more on” together like that.
Nilla Wafers? That’s a cookie. 🙂
Nil isn’t not a word we use. It sounds kind of British.
Instead of nil, please write “None” or “Nothing” instead
- Instead of: “In-Progress: Nil”
- Write: “In-Progress: Nothing”
Less / Fewer
“We see that the manufacturing related searches are very less compared to other industries.”
OK, very less… what?
Oh, you meant to say there are less of those searches. OK, you can’t say they are less. You can say fewer. That sounds better to us.
“We see less manufacturing related searches than compared to other industries.”
See what I see there? The phrase is “Less… than.”
“There’s a fewer amount of manufacturing related searches compared to other industries.”
“I will revert for any queries.”
You’re going to… what?
Oh, get back to us if you have any questions… so, reply. Got it.
Yeah, we’re Americans, not English scholars… dumb it down for us, please.
“Thank you.” “Welcome.”
Just saying “welcome” after someone says “thank you” sounds weird. Don’t shorten it but say “you’re welcome” to the person thanking you.
To us, saying “welcome” is a greeting, like “welcome to our home” so just hearing “welcome” after a “thank you” isn’t how we use that.
Here are a few things with the word “see” or “seeing” that came up…
- Instead of: “As you can see the rounding off and other main settings are present in this section.”
- Say: “The rounding off and other main settings are present in this section.”
Including “as you can see” does a couple things. First, it assumes they can see what you’re talking about. Maybe they can’t. Don’t make this assumption. Secondly, it’s kind of talking down to someone. You’re essentially saying, “Well, you can see it, right? It’s right there, you dummy.” which is a little passive aggressive to us. Don’t do that. Just omit that phrase.
- Instead of: “Ok, The screen what you are seeing is from…”
- Say: “OK, the screen you see is from…”
Meet / Met / Met With
To Americans, when you meet someone, that’s the first time you’ve met – an initial meeting. You were strangers with them before that time. If you’re going to see someone you already know, then you’re “meeting with” them. You don’t say you met someone you already know.
- Good: “I met John for the first time yesterday”
- Not so good: “I met John and we talked about the project” (if you already know John)
- Correct: “I met with John and we talked about the project” (if you already know John)
Give Straight Answers
Alright, this one bugs me a lot. Wow, is this frustrating. I ask yes/no or other binary questions and I get a whole paragraph back, which I need to sift through to try to find the answer. Americans are not this way… at… all!
To us, this shows a lack of confidence and we doze off while trying to listen to your little dance all around the topic or answer. It’s exhausting.
Like I said, we’re more efficient. English is very linear and so is our thinking. Your thinking seems to be more circular where you go all around something instead of straight to it. I think this is based in language but I can’t say for sure.
If you like long meetings and if you like annoying Americans with your “dance around the subject” long answers, just keep doing that. You’ll hear frustration from us in return and you’ll hear us asking the same question again.
If you’d like to be better workers and friends with us, then try answering questions straight to the point. 🙂
When I’m working with my team and am trying to work through something, I have a logic path in mind. To get there, I need to walk them through the steps. To simplify things, I’ll have a set of yes/no questions planned in my head to walk them through. When I get anything but a yes or not, it just takes longer and gets things way off track. So just try straight answers and let me know (in the comments below) how that works for you and what you think of it.
And I did find a good article explaining why straight answers are hard to come by. This was really insightful:
Getting a Straight Answer in India
Using the Phone
When talking to an American on the phone, here are some things you really need to know. This especially applies to anyone calling Americans to sell your services, etc. You can come off seeing very difficult to work with just by the way you normally use the phone there in India (trust me). If you want to talk with Americans on the phone, you need to change the way you use the phone.
The “Hello? Hello?” Game
The phones here are very reliable. Sure, your phones aren’t and I get that but here, they work fine. AND (this is very important), if they are not working, we do NOT (EVER) keep saying “Hello?” over and over. Why we don’t is VERY simple… if you keep saying “Hello?” this does NOT move things forward. You get stuck in a loop. This makes absolutely no sense and still cannot understand why you guys do this.
What we say if this happens (and it hardly ever does) is, “Can you hear me?” We can then answer “yes” if we do and then the conversation continues.
So instead of that, you guys insist on this being a better method:
If the client adds weight and dimension to these products then these will correctly be placed together in a box.
And so on.
Both people think the connection doesn’t work when it actually might be working. Again, I have no idea how this makes any possible sense.
“Greetings of the day!”
Yeah, we don’t say that here. That phrase… doesn’t really even make sense to us. What are the greetings of this day? Why are they of this day? It just doesn’t sound right to us… at all.
If I see an email with that at the beginning, I know it’s spam.
We would say either:
- Greetings (we really don’t say this much at all anymore – it sounds old)
- Hi There
Bottom line… it doesn’t make sense and it looks very spammy since we get a lot of spam email (not “spams” but “spam email”) with that at the beginning.
Oh, and don’t use the exclamation point so much. Use it very rarely or it loses its impact.
How to Easily and Instantly Improve Your Writing
Here’s how to make your writing (emails, documents, etc.) sound more American and it’s really easy to do. Just see if it makes sense to remove these words/phrases:
- “we can see that” (we’re glad you’re able to see, but saying this over and over sounds weird)
- “that” (in most cases, this word can be removed and you’ll sound more confident)
- “have” (for example, instead of “have found” write “found”)
- “on the website” or the like (if we’re talking about the website already, there’s no need to keep mentioning changes will be done on the website, it’s obvious)
When I edit copy/text from my Indian team, I’m very often just removing a lot of extra stuff. It’s things like changing “blue color” to just “blue” since we know blue is a color. And I kept track of how many extra instances of “the” there were and how many instances of “the” I had to add somewhere, there would still be more removed than kept.
Change infinitives to actual verbs. Instead of “…it will help them to find answers…” say “…it will help them find answers…” (only if it makes sense/seems like the “to” is extra).
Change “these” and “those” to the actual thing you’re referring to. And instead of “these” try using “they” and see if it makes sense (we talk saying “they” more than “these”).
Also, sound more confident. Instead of “we can” write “we will” and so on. This goes a long way.
American thinking is linear instead of circular. It’s more factual/direct. We want less extra information and more real information. In other words, get to the point and be confident about it.
There you go! Maybe I’ll add more, so bookmark the page (I’ll try to put new ones at the end unless they relate to something already here). If you have any I forgot, please put them in the comments.
One general tip which will really help you is… speak confidently! Sure, you might get some things wrong but there’s a lot of Americans that don’t talk right, either. It’s better to be more confident and be wrong than for us to barely hear you and still be wrong. Not being able to hear just makes it so much worse.
And when you speak, OPEN YOUR MOUTH! Yes, that helps you be more clear. That’s how we talk. We even inadvertently read lips. We might be looking at someone’s eyes when we’re listening but we’re indirectly seeing what their mouth is doing and that helps what we’re hearing make more sense. It’s confirmation. We’re not used to hearing mumbling and words all smashed together in a string of words. Open your mouth to be clear and speak confidently. Make sure you’re heard. That’s half the battle… really!