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Welcome to this blog’s Dear Abby column, Israeli-style. For those of you familiar unfamiliar with Dear Abby columns, people with unfortunate nicknames send in their problems and Abby solves them. Since we’re in Israel, we’re calling our version “Dear Malka”.
Our first question comes from a reader in Herzeliya.
I own a small business and want to export my product to customers abroad. But, I am concerned because my written English is very poor. I can speak fine, but I want my email communication to be better so that the customers think I am professional. How do I improve my writing?
Please understand that most people are understanding of when a non-native English speaker makes writing mistakes. However, you are correct in that your customers will have an easier time understanding you if you write clearly. The business world is very competitive and you need to stay ahead of the competition. Here are a few options for you:
1. Take a class or get a tutor – it might cost you a bunch o’shekels, but weekly or bi-weekly lessons are the slow-but-steady way to improve your writing. A native English speaker can teach you grammar fundamentals that lead to long-term results. It is an investment worth considering.
2. Read the newspaper in English – or a book, or a blog (how about this one?). The more you read, the more you internalize the way people write English. You’ll also learn useful phrases that can literally be copy-pasted. The cost is free to minimal, but the tradeoff is that you won’t learn the ‘method to the madness’, you’ll just learn the madness. The madness, of course, being English.
3. Hire someone else to do it – if all you need is someone to edit the emails you’ve written, there are tons of native English speakers in this neck of the woods. Don’t trust just anybody? Hire me. I’ll do it.
Best of luck, Ephraim! Let us know how it goes.
English Emergency in the lobby of Amot Investments, a leading public real estate company.
A snarky sidenote, if I may, but if you have ever seen the number of Israelis standing outside this building chain smoking, you too would wonder why this grammatically incorrect sign was written in (sort of) English in the first place.
Welcome to Facebook – part deux, which is a guide intended for any business NOT in the Fortune 500. First off, forget everything you think you know about Facebook. Likely, your knowledge is limited to having a personal account – meaning you spy on old classmates and post silly pictures of your dog or children.
Facebook offers two options for promoting your business, which are not mutually exclusive (you can have both)!
Option 1: A Facebook Fan page. This is the page where people can click “Like”. It is a great place to share information with your adoring fans. You can post photos (not of your kids), videos, links, you name it. FB fan pages are also compatible with Twitter, so you can actually link these two services together. Posting on FB and having it magically appear on your Twitter saves you time and effort.
Your fans who have clicked Like are also able to post on the page’s wall, which encourages interaction. People are inclined to Like your page because it takes only one click to have access to all of the content.
To tell you the absolute truth, Fan pages are the way to go. They are easy to create, easy to maintain and are easy to attract followers.
Option 2: Facebook Groups. Before Fan pages were created, Groups were the best option for creating a ‘meeting spot’ for your clients/friends/family, etc. With the creation of Fan pages, Groups are decidedly less special, and certainly less common. One inarguable benefit is the ability to make a group “hidden”, or only available to select people. This is a way to limit random weirdos who may want to join, and to protect the privacy of the people in the group. “ONLY the members of the class of 2003 can join this Group, and I mean it!!!” can actually be enforced.
Otherwise, Groups are quite similar to pages…go ahead, post on the wall, add a photo, you can upload documents, blah blah…
But really, go get yourself a Fan page.
Prepositions are some of the shortest words in English, yet can be the most confusing for non-native speakers. I’ve noticed that Hebrew speakers in particular seem to struggle with how and when to properly use these sneaky little guys.
Here are the more problematic ones:
On is used for days of the week and for specific dates. For example:
My doctor appointment is on Tuesday.
On the 5th of January we are going on vacation.
At is used for specific time. For example:
At what time are you meeting him?
My doctor appointment is on Tuesday at 9:00.
In is used for general time when it is not specific. For example:
We like to take our family vacation in January.
It snows in New York in the winter.
However, without a doubt, the most problematic is since/ago. In Hebrew, לפני
can be used in a variety of places, and is generally a catch-all for talking about things in the past. In English, however, things are never quite that simple. Since is used when describing something that has happened in a period of time after an event. For example:
I have been learning English since 2002
Since when do you smoke?
Since high school, we’ve been best friends.
Ago is separate and distinct from since. It is used to describe how much time has passed after an event. For example:
10 years ago, I visited Israel.
The movie ended one hour ago.
Ah, Facebook. The biggest beast of them all….we upload our favorite memories through photos, post on the walls of our friends, “poke” the attractive people we would like to be our friends, and click “like” with complete and utter abandon.
Facebook is near and dear to all of our hearts. But how to integrate such a fine, fine social networking tool into the realm of business? Well, the answer depends on what kind of business you’re running. If you are a big, corporate conglomerate, you need to quickly, very quickly, hire a social media expert to create and maintain a creative (and expensive) page. It IS worth the money, and it IS necessary. Besides, if you’re a corporate conglomerate you’ve likely got loads of money. On second thought, you, Mr. big corporate conglomerate, probably aren’t reading this blog anyway.
Moving onto the small-to-mid-size businesses, for whom Facebook is much more DIY (do it yourself) and a significantly lower-budget operation. However, lower budget does not necessarily mean a lower level of coolness….. (to be continued)….