Who's making New Year's Resolutions? Raise your hands.

Whether you are making resolutions or not, I urge you to seriously consider becoming a Toastmaster. That means being part of this global organization called Toastmasters International. That means making the investment in time, money, and effort to be a better communicator and leader than you already are. Follow this advice and this time next year, you'll be wondering why you didn't do this sooner.

Why should you become a Toastmaster? Here are three good reasons why:

You will expand your NETWORK.
You will increase your NET WORTH.

Expanding Your Network

Within the first few months that I was an active Toastmaster, I landed a training gig in a top multinational corporation. A guest in one of our meetings asked me to coach him in language proficiency. I considered that pretty good ROI for the membership dues I paid the club. And I have the club to thank for exposing me to a network of potential clients, suppliers, mentors, friends.

Every Toastmasters Club has a roster of at least 20 members. Multiply that by more than 150 clubs in the Philippines, where there are year round activities to allow you to rub elbows with different people from different industries. Consider too that there are thousands of clubs all over the world. By any standards, that is a pretty vast network. It is up to you to get the most out of that network by being as active and friendly as you can be.

Though using Toastmasters activities for blatant selling and guerrilla tactic marketing (the equivalent of spamming) is frowned upon, you can build up your image by volunteering to host events, visiting clubs as an evaluator, and excelling in speaking contests. These are more subtle, less offensive, and certainly more effective ways of showing off your talents and building up your name recall without doing any hard sell.

Networks are not limited to professional contacts. The friendships that have grown out of my Toastmasters experience are rich and thriving. These are friendships with people who want to use their time productively, who share my desire for lifelong learning and continuous development. These are people who know how to have fun. Friends who have taught me so much more beyond just communication.

Increasing Your Net Worth

Joining Toastmasters for the first time - US$20.00
Approximate Annual Membership fee - PhP5,000.00
Competency Development and Growing Self Confidence - Priceless

I can honestly say that I'm a better person, better speaker, better writer, better communicator, better leader than I was when I started in my Toastmasters journey. Our club, Butter N Toast Toastmasters Club, values lifelong learning and aims to make that possible by providing a fun, motivating environment. It's hard to think of a better investment in self development than Toastmasters.

Our members who are entrepreneurs come into the club even when it seems like they don't need to be a Toastmaster in their career. They can put their money elsewhere, but they see the value in developing their skills and confidence.

Learning in an Environment that is Not Work

If the first two reasons have not convinced you yet, then this could be the one to cinch the deal. Toastmasters is not a have-to. For me, it's a want-to. No matter how busy my schedule gets, I need to be there in the twice-a-month meetings. It's a break from the tedium of work. It's a great, productive way to be entertained. And I can mess up without worrying about getting fired. It's a laboratory to experiment with new behaviors and to take risks. Mistakes are not going to affect my career.

But the learning and all the benefits are sure to make me better in my career as well as in my personal life.

2009 is predicted to be a tough year -- one that can challenge us in many ways. I encourage you to take the Toastmasters challenge.

Ho, ho, ho!

The Grammar Pulis lays down her magnifying glass for the next few days to give everyone a break. Go ahead and commit grammar mistakes because no one's watching who's being good with the commas and bad with the tenses.

Relax. Enjoy the vacation. Cherish your moments with your families and friends.

I wish you all a meaningful and merry Christmas!


I got this through e-mail. Unfortunately, I can't find the source of this highly amusing piece.


We' ve been friends for a long time ago. We come from the same alma mother. Actually, our paths crossed one time on another. But it's only now that I gave him a second look. I realized that beauty is in the eyes. The pulpbits of my heart went fast, really fast. Cute pala siya. And then, he came over with me. He said, "I hope you don't mine. Can I get your number?" Nag-worry ako. What if he doesn't give it back? He explained naman na it's so we could keep intact daw. Sabi ko, connect me if i'm wrong but are you asking me ouch? Nabigla siya. Sagot niya, The! Aba! Parang siya pa ang galit! Persona ingrata!!! Ang kapal niya! I cried buckles of tears.

Na-guilty yata siya. Sabi niya, isipin mo na lang na this is a blessing in the sky. Irregardless daw of his feelings, we'll go ouch na rin. Now, we're so in love. Mute and epidemic na ang past. Thanks God we swallowed our fried. Kasi, I'm 33 na and I'm running our time. After 2 weeks, he plopped the question. "Will you marriage me?" I'm in a state of shocked. Kasi mantakin mo, when it rains, it's four! This is true good to be true. So siyempre, I said yes. Love is a many splendor.

Pero nung inaayos ko na ang aming kasal, everything swell to pieces. Nag-di-dinner kami noon nang biglang sa harap ng aming table, may babaeng humirit ng, "Well, well, well. Look do we have here." What the fuss! The nerd ng babaeng yon! She said they were still on. So I told her, whatever is that, cut me some slacks! I didn't want this to get our hand kaya I had to sip it in the bud. She accused me of steeling her boyfriend. Ats if! I don't want to portrait the role of the other woman. Gosh, tell me to the marines! I told her, "please, mine you own business!" Who would believe her anyway?

Dahil it's not my problem anymore but her problem anymore, tumigil na rin siya ng panggugulo. Everything is coming up daisies. I'm so happy. Even my boyfriend said liketwice. He's so supportive. Sabi niya, "Look at is this way. She's our of our lives."

Kaya advise ko sa inyo - take the risk. You can never can tell. Just burn the bridge when you get there. Life is shorts. If you make a mistake, we'll just pray for the internal and external repose of your soul. I second emotion.

"Blahblahblah Corporation is a manufacturing and importing company established 50 years ago. We have served clients from the Philippine's Top 500 companies. We are proud of the many awards our company has reaped including the Top Exporter Award in 1998."

What's wrong with these statements? Grammatically, there is nothing wrong with them. But if they are part of a company profile write-up attached to a proposal or quotation, then those are three sentences that serve no purpose except to show a bloated corporate ego and do nothing to help persuade your clients.

Will the fact that your company has been in existence for 50 years help your potential customers decrease costs, improve efficiency, increase profit? Will the Purchasing Manager reading this paragraph feel that your proposal would make his job easier, make him feel better, be better, and do better? What needs of your clients are served by the factoid that you won an award 10 years ago?

I'm not saying that your company's tenure and awards don't matter. In persuasion, credibility is also key. But to be truly persuasive, you need to answer your reader's unspoken question: "What's in it for me?"

Here's how we can rework the self-serving and ultra-boring statement:

"You can be part of a list of of Blahblahblah Corporation's satisfied customers. Since 1958, we have been helping clients like you from small to large enterprises improve efficiency and increase profits by providing top quality products and services at the lowest possible prices. In 2007, our client, TestimonyInc. decreased their costs by 32% while increasing their profit by 42%. Our website lists down a number of awards we have won through the years. But the greatest award for us is satisfying you, our client."

Here's why the latter paragraph can be more persuasive. First off, you defocus your attention from you and your organization's need to brag. And you have focused on the needs of your readers and how your organization can satisfy those needs. In terms of language, simply shifting from the writer-focused first person (I, We, Our) to the reader-focused You or Your can alter the tone of your writing to be more interesting and convincing to your potential clients.

Remember, in persuasive writing, the second person is better and more effective than first.

I remember writing class back in grade school. Sister Maria Mercedes would ask us to write an essay about our summer vacation in 500 words or more. And so even if all I did that summer was watch TV and reorganize the pantry by arranging the canned goods in alphabetical order, I had to come up with a long-winded, adjective and adverb filled piece that Sister Maria Mercedes probably read as a replacement for sleeping pills.

Sadly, this nation produced generations of students who cared more about reaching their 500-word quotas than coming up with clear, concise, creative writing. Back then that kind of writing was called flowery. Today I call it an environmental crime; a waste of dead trees, ink, and teachers’ caffeine allowances.

To this day, students still attempt to please their teachers and readers by using their arsenal of sentence lengtheners – adverbs, prepositional phrases, interjections, and a million ways to say, “She said” –- “she enthusiastically exclaimed,” “she immediately uttered with a loud gasp of breath.”

One supposedly clever device is the phrase, “in order to.”
- In order to reduce our costs, we will limit employees’ use of the toilet to once a day.
- In order to meet his sales quota, Danny agreed to sell his soul.
- Sign on this order form in order to order your order.

Let’s arrest verbosity. Clear and concise writing is more effective. It also saves trees, bandwidth, and time. Delete the words “in order” and just write “to.”
- To reduce our costs, we will limit employees’ use of the toilet to once a day.
- To meet his sales quota, Danny agreed to sell his soul.
- Sign on this form to confirm your order.

Sister Maria Mercedes is no longer counting words. Neither should we. It’s more important to use fewer words, but let each word count.

Hilarious look/listen at Pinglish.

You asked:
When do you use "somebody" and "someone"? How about "everybody" and "everyone"?

Grammar Pulis answered:
To make sure I give you the right answer, I consulted 3 sources:

Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B.White
Usage & Abusage by Eric Partridge for Penguin Reference Books
Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

All of them agree that:
somebody is synonymous with someone;
everybody, with everyone;
anybody, with anyone;
and nobody, with no one.

Somebody and someone both mean "some person of unspecified or indefinite identity."
Everybody and everyone both mean "every person."
Anybody and anyone mean "any person."
Nobody and no one mean "no person."

Take note that except for no one, all are spelled as one word. There are instances when you have to spell these in two words: some body, every body, any body, no body. That is when the word body means a corpse, a human form, or a group.

Let's try out some sentences:

Somebody/ someone/some person has to bring a body to class.
Some body will be used for the anatomy class.

Everybody/ everyone/ every person will eventually die.
Every body in the morgue has been embalmed.

Anybody/ any one/ any person can replace our bikini ad model.
Any body of water would do for the beach scene backdrop.

Nobody/ no one/ no person claimed the confiscated car.
No body was found in the trunk.

Somebody may also mean "a person of position or importance" as in:
He thinks he is a somebody just because he's been promoted.
Nobody means "a person of no influence or consequence" as in:
She only dates nobodies to have a sense of superiority over her men.

I hope this was helpful to you. Keep on asking your questions, and I will do my best to answer.

In the last post, we talked about the past tense. Here are some sentences that I spotted in email exchanges among business colleagues.

A few years ago, I am responsible for our corporate responsibility projects.
I was task by my boss to coordinate all the activities.
We meet in a conference a few years ago.

These sentences are better written as:

A few years ago, I was responsible for our corporate responsibility projects.
I was tasked by my boss to coordinate all the activities.
We met in a conference a few years ago.

What is worse, however, is when words are converted to past tense when they should not be as in:

Your support will helped me realized my dream.
Let me asked the store manager a couple of questions.
I usually gave generous tips to waiters who served me well.

The first sentence refers to a future event. The clue is the word “will.” This should then be written as: Your support will help me realize my dream.

The second sentence is asking permission to ask questions. Thus, this is also considered a future event. It would be better to say: “Let me ask you a couple of questions.”

The third sentence describes a habitual action, and should then be expressed in the present tense: “I usually give generous tips to waiters who serve me well.

Here are more common mistakes:

I did not recalled anything about the last Christmas party.
Did Mr. Roxas cancelled his order?
Yes, he did cancelled it at the last minute.

Can you tell what’s wrong with these sentences?

Whenever you use the auxiliary verb do or did, the following main verb should be in neutral form. In all these sentences, the word did carry the tense so the past tense has shifted from the verbs recall and cancel. Thus, these sentences should read:

I did not recall anything about the last Christmas party.
Did Mr. Roxas cancel his order?
Yes, he did cancel it at the last minute.

There you have it. It is important to use the past tense when talking about events in the past. Normally, you add an –ed to the verb. But there are irregular verbs to consider as well. It is also important when to leave the –ed home.

Understanding English Grammar by Martha Kolln
English for Business by Charles Chandler Parkhurst

Past Tensed

The rule regarding conversion of verbs to their past tense forms is straightforward; add -ed. Answer becomes answered. Question becomes questioned. Of course, there are irregular verbs such as: go that becomes went, come that becomes came. Some of these irregular verbs are pretty common so it just takes frequent usage to get used to them.

Regardless how straightforward the rule is, we still seem to struggle with past tenses. We sometimes fail to convert them to past tense when they should be, and sometimes we use the past tense version even if we shouldn’t.

Let’s take a look at the sentence:

As a 16 year old virgin, I am afraid of being sacrificed to volcano gods.

Now, this sentence would only make sense if the speaker is young enough to know the names of all Jonas brothers, is chaste, and lives pretty close to active volcanoes. But if the speaker is old enough to have been part of the Death March, or knows the terms disco, betamax, or Karma Chameleon, then most likely this sentence should be in past tense.

In that case, it should be stated as:

As a 16 year old virgin, I was afraid of being sacrificed to volcano gods.

Try these sentences out by converting the verbs in parentheses to their past tense:

Last week, we (run) _____________ out of bell peppers.
Yesterday, I (go) _____________ to the market.
I made sure I (bargain) _____________ with the vegetable seller.
I was so glad he (give) _____________ me a 20% discount.

That wasn’t so hard, was it? I suspect that many of us know the rule, but we make mistakes when we are not being careful. Just remember, if it happened in the past, convert the verb into its past tense form.

Oh, just to make sure it’s clear. The title of this post is incorrect. In this case, tense is a noun, and nouns cannot be converted to past tense.

More on the past tense in the next posts.

The people of the world are divided into two - those who say the word irregardless and those who cringe when they hear the word.

Those who cringe usually consider this a language pet peeve. The issue is that irregardless is not a word but a combination of two - regardless and irrespective. In this case, two rights combined make a wrong. Wikipedia tries to shed light on the irregardless controversy but does not really give us a clear-cut answer.

Here's my take on the matter. When I hear it, I cringe. It is just wrong to use two negative suffixes in one word. Stick to irrespective or regardless; don't combine the two.

I am very much in love with words - reading them, writing them, discovering and trying out new ones. I am most enthralled by the power of words - to move hearts, to change minds, to impact the world. This video illustrates the power of using words embedded in letters to change the world.

Bictory Voy

And now for the pronunciation drill for V and B.


Enjoy practicing!

A Ba Ka Da E Ga Ha- That's the Filipino alphabet I grew up with. I know that this has now evolved into a new alphabet that looks so much like the English one. But, I suppose a whole lot of Filipinos learned the alphabet without an F. And that makes it undestandable when people say pour instead of four, pamily pirst instead of family first. I get it. F is hard to pronounce.

What boggles my mind and offends my ears is hearing people use the f sound for words that are spelled with a p. It's ferpectly understandable the other way around, but how did that uncalled for F come about? Flease fass the rice , black feffer, tof 10.

Now, here's my constructive suggestion.

Fractice, erm practice, practice, practice.

If you get your f's and p's mixed up, you can practice pronouncing these pairs of words.

F - P
feel - peel
four - pour
fine - pine
foot - put
fork - pork
fast - past
fart - part
fare - pare
fat - pat
fail - pail
far - par
fore - pore
faint - paint
fool - pool
fit - pit
face - pace
few - pew
fan - pan
fad - pad
fashion - passion

Read them twice daily at first until you get them right. Then, do it weekly. Make sure you apply them in your conversations. Eventually you won't need to practice that frequently; just do refresher drills when you think you're reverting back to your old ways. If you have a friend whom you can trust in pronunciation, let her listen to you. Be open to suggestions, and don't take it personally if your friend snickers sometimes. In time, you will learn to pronounce your f's and p's perfectly.

One of the first things we learn in using the English language is how to make plural nouns. The general rule is to add an s at the end of the word. For example, chair becomes chairs and table becomes tables. Because life is not simple, there are always exceptions and variations to this general rule. For example, life becomes lives, mouse becomes mice, city become cities, and child becomes children. But I have a strong, well-founded suspicion that you all know that.

So today's lesson starts here:

There are certain words that do not need the s to be converted to their plural form. In fact, they remain exactly as they are as when they are singular nouns.

These are some examples:

* equipment
* furniture
* jewelry
* advice
* stationery

* luggage
* stuff
* feedback
* hair

For example, you don't say, "I love your hairs." Even if the person has very thick, lustrous hair, you still say hair, not hairs. 

Let's use the above words in sentences:.

* The delivery men hauled a truckload of equipment into the new office building.
* We had the furniture for the CEO's office custom made.
* The tenants were advised to insure their jewelry.
* Through the years, my mentor has given me much advice about personal finance.
* We ordered stationery for the new office assistant.

There are certain words to which it is acceptable to add s, but you have to watch out for the context in which you use them.

For example, I hear people say, "Don't use jargons." Now, would say that jargons is an acceptable plural form. (Spellcheck, however, puts a red zigzag line underneath it.) Generally, though, jargon without an s is sufficient.

One definition of the word jargon is: the language, esp. the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group: medical jargon.

It refers to a body of terms used by a specific group of people. So it wouldn't be correct to say, "Avoid using technical jargons." It's like saying, "I need to widen my vocabularies." In some rare cases, perhaps, jargons may be acceptable when one says, "Different kinds of jargons are used in different kinds of arts - music jargon, photography jargon, theater jargon."

The same situation holds true for the word behavior. I've heard somebody say, "I don't like his behaviors. He's always rude and irresponsible." Now, even though this spiteful fellow has been doing rude and irresponsible acts for years, it's still better to say, "I don't like his behavior." Behavior refers to the aggregate responses to internal and external stimuli. Again, there are times when adding an s to the end of the word behavior might be acceptable, like when you're talking about the behaviors of different cultures with regards to public display of affection.

I guess I have belabored the point well enough. For the words jargon and behavior, it will depend on context. But for equipment, jewelry, and the rest of the list above, it is best to spare the s. When in doubt, consult a reliable and recent dictionary. 

If everybody would just use the plural forms of these nouns properly, we could save the world one s at a time. Think of all the ink and trees we will save. And if you think of those grammar nazis who cringe and have their blood pressure shoot up whenever they hear the words advices and furnitures, maybe doing this will be our little way of contributing to world peace.

Sources: Chicago Manual of Style 15th Edition, Watch Your English by Dr. Dups,

FILIPINISMS: Language Felonies Pinoy Style is a category for those peculiar ways Filipinos use the English language. Here's one of them.

The Ocular Inspection

How many times have you heard this term? It's also sometimes phrased as Ocular Visit. We've heard it so many times that it has started to sound right. But, think about it - what does ocular mean?

Ocular refers to the eye. Visit to verify. So when your HR Coordinator says he's going to a junket er uhm ocular visit to some resort your company is considering as a venue for the summer outing, you better tell him to leave his ears, tongue, nose, and epidermis in the office. He's not going to need those. Because he's only going for an ocular visit. He can only look. He cannot smell, touch, or hear. And a taste test of the resort's cuisine would also not be possible. Because it's only an OCULAR visit.

I don't know when, where, how, or why this term started being used and how it became popular. And we don't have to maim or poke the eyes of the person who started it all. But we can stop using this rather silly term and say instead, "We, (meaning you and the cute office practicumer - another Filipinism) are going to take the day off from our boring desk jobs to visit Ragged Rock Resort to check out the place for our company outing." That means you don't have to leave your other sense organs on your desk.

And your boss will say, "Ah magoocular kayo. Wear sunblock!"

Image borrowed without permission from:

The Usual Suspects: Grammar Errors that Murder the English Language and Your Reputation 

This will be a category for blog entries that tackle the usual grammatical errors I spot on my students' papers, colleagues' email, friends' messages, wall signages, and other surfaces where typos and language lapses lurk.

Lesson One: Spelling Tricky Pronouns

Let’s start with the basics. Let’s talk about the your/you’re, their/they’re, its/it’s conundrum. It remains a mystery why even after years of using the English language, we still can’t get these right. Fortunately, we can get away with it when we are speaking. Your is pronounced like you’re. Their is also a homonym of they’re. And its sounds exactly like it’s. The problem becomes obvious when these words are written. Spellchecker might not be able to help you here, because in isolation, they are correctly spelled words. In context, they can cause you trouble. Sure, your reader might be astute enough to understand your intended meaning. But, in a critical report or a cover letter for a job application, getting these wrong can do serious damage to your credibility. So, let this be your guide.

Possessive Pronouns:

Subject Pronouns plus Linking Verbs:
You're (You are)
It's (It is)

All the possessive pronouns are whole words.

Each word from the other group is s contraction formed by joining a subject pronoun and a linking verb (is, are). Remember that the first letter of the verb is dropped and replaced by an apostrophe. In the movie of your mind, imagine that the apostrophe is either an i or an e.

Now, let’s use them in sentences.

Your grammar is appalling.
You’re appalling for insulting my grandmother.

Their response to their grandmother’s surprise visit was very lukewarm.
They’re not going to be in her good graces when it’s time to review her will.

The will is going to be reviewed? I thought its stipulations have been finalized.
It’s not final until she’s finally gone.

Now, it’s your turn.

______________ fly is open.

Don't you care that ______________ displaying ______________ family jewels to the public?

I don’t care if ______________ looking. ______________ reactions do not concern me at all.
______________ a shame ______________ too concerned about public opinion. ______________ not the end of the world.

In fairness to those who get these wrong, it is fairly easy to get them wrong due to ignorance, laziness, confusion, sleepiness, intoxication, tired eyes, lack of focus, or a combination of these reasons.An occasional lapse won't terminate your career. But knowing these basic rules will go a long way in achieving clarity in your communication and presenting yourself in the best positive light to your readers.


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