Blog-azine

Ending a sentence with “at”

We’ve all been admonished, “Never end a sentence with at.” True, there are times when you definitely should not; but there are also times when you should. It’s common to hear “Where is he at?” That’s simply wrong, but not for the reason most think. You may think it’s because “at” is a preposition and “you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition*.” But that’s not the reason. It’s merely because “at” in the sentence above is a redundancy. “Where is he?” says exactly the same thing, so adding “at” is simply superfluous. And your goal should be to have no unnecessary words. However, there are times when “at” is desirable at the end of a sentence. If you see someone looking at you, snickering, what are you going to say: “What are you laughing at?” Or, would you say “At what are you laughing?” I’d choose “What are you laughing at?” any day.

*If you still believe “you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition,” see the entry dated 3-8-2008 below.

Want to learn more? Consider my two writing seminars: Business Writing in Plain English and Goof-Proof Grammar.

Read all entries in The Written Word
Posted Saturday, March 15, 2008 | Link to entry

How long does it take?

As a speechwriter, I am often asked “How long does it take to write a speech?” On average, I allow an hour of writing time for every minute of the finished speech. Therefore, a 45-minute keynote can take a full work week of writing time. Of course, most speakers rarely need to start from scratch, as most have standard stories that they insert into every speech. But if you have no stories, examples, or illustrations already in hand, if you are hiring a speechwriter, remember one minute of speech = one hour of writing.

This point is covered at greater length in my speaking skills seminar Elements of Eloquence.

Read all entries in The Spoken Word
Posted Saturday, March 08, 2008 | Link to entry

End with a preposition?

Do you remember an English teacher admonishing, “Never end a sentence with a preposition”? Guess what…it’s not a rule after all. There are many times in which a preposition is properly placed at the end of a sentence. For example, “from” is a preposition. And there is absolutely no reason you should not say “Where did that come from?” If you wanted to avoid the preposition at the end, you’d have to say (pretentiously), “From where did that come?” Or, to avoid that, you could say (even more pretentiously), “Whence came it?” Given the choice, I recommend “Where did that come from?” with the preposition proudly bringing up the rear.

Want to learn more? Consider my two writing seminars: Business Writing in Plain English and Goof-Proof Grammar.

Read all entries in The Written Word
Posted Saturday, March 08, 2008 | Link to entry

The first 60 seconds

In his book You Are the Message, Roger Ailes says “Research shows that we start to make up our minds about other people within seven seconds of first meeting them. In the first seven seconds, we also trigger in each other a chain of emotional reactions, ranging from reassurance to fear.” Ailes says all this takes place in seven seconds; others say it occurs within the first minute or two. So whether it’s seven seconds or even seventy, you must start strong, because the audience is judging you…just that fast.

Want to learn more? Consider Connect With Any Audience and my speaking skills seminars Elements of Eloquence and Eight Essentials of Effective Speaking.

Read all entries in The Spoken Word
Posted Thursday, March 06, 2008 | Link to entry

When are you ready?

A former Toastmasters’ World Champion once said “How do you know when your speech is ready? Not until you’re sick of it.” He was referring to the amount of time you should practice a speech. And although a large amount of preparation is often necessary, if you practice a speech until you’re sick of it, your audience won’t want to hear it.  Fundamentally, I believe it’s the opposite: “You’re not ready to give your speech until you’re in love with it.” Have you ever selected the perfect gift for a family member or friend? Remember how you just couldn’t wait to see their reaction when you presented it?  Think of your speech in the same way: as a gift you are about to present to your friends. The moment you say, “I can’t wait to give this gift to this audience” is the moment you know you’re ready.

Want to learn more? Consider Connect With Any Audience and my speaking skills seminars Elements of Eloquence and Eight Essentials of Effective Speaking.

Read all entries in The Spoken Word
Posted Thursday, March 06, 2008 | Link to entry

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