Take any entrepreneurship class or read any entrepreneurship book and you’ll learn about all the elements that make up a business plan and what goes into each element. Many also have advice on how to package the business plan and investor presentation in a way that caters to the investors’ interests. There are also many articles on topics such as making your business plans more persuasive or how to better connect with your audience. What is left unsaid is that all of this must be presented in a manner that looks professional and does not embarrass your English teacher. Remember that, first and foremost, investors are investing in you.
In this age where we communicate in smaller intervals, it has become too easy to ignore the rules of grammar. Many of us (myself included) write entirely in lower-case when emailing our friends. We rarely use complete sentences when texting and much of what we text is slang or abbreviation. Since most people who are no longer in school do not have to write anything more than a lengthy email, it has become very easy to forget how to write and communicate well.
Here are some basic tips to help improve your grammar:
• Use the spell check and grammar check feature of your word processor or presentation program. This may sound like a no-brainer, but I have seen too many business plans and presentations that contain errors that could have been fixed by taking full advantage of the software tools available.
• A good general rule to follow is that anything that is appropriate when texting is not appropriate in a professional document or presentation.
• Get someone else to proofread a document that you are going to share with an external party. A co-founder is a good start. Even better is to have someone who is not associated with the business (e.g., a spouse, friend, etc.) review the document.
• Do not confuse “effect” and “affect.” “Effect” is typically a noun, meaning some consequence or result. “Affect” is typically a verb, meaning to bring about an effect.
• Do not confuse “its” and “it’s.” “Its” is the possessive form of “it,” whereas “it’s” is a contraction for “it is.”
• Do not confuse “there”, “their” and “they are.” Use “there” when referring to a place or location. Use “their” when indicating possession. Use “they’re” (a contraction of the words “they” and “are”) to indicate that the subjects are taking action.
• Use “i.e.” and “e.g.” appropriately. The abbreviation “i.e.” means “that is,” so i.e. is a way of saying “in other words.” It is designed to make something clearer by providing a definition or saying it in a more common way. The abbreviation “e.g.” means “for example”, so e.g. is used before giving specific examples that support your assertion.
• Write out numbers from one to nine, and use numerals for numbers larger than nine.
Here are some basic tips to help improve your communication skills when presenting:
• Do not say the word “like” unless you are comparing something.
• Do not say the words “you know” at the end of a statement.
• There is nothing wrong with silence when pondering something. Do not fill it with “aahs” and “umms.”
• Conduct a practice session and record it. The video will clearly reveal how you appear to an audience member and what you can do differently next time to improve.
What are some other tips you would like to share that can help improve our grammar and communication skills?
Dr. Atul Teckchandani
CSUF Entrepreneurship Professor