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To get ahead, clean up bad speech habits

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Several types of speech problems make people appear to be uneducated and can hold them back in their careers. Including:

* Speaking like an adolescent. Using phrases like "that's like so cool" makes you sound young and inexperienced. Add frequent use of "y' know," and using "go" instead of said, "He goes, 'It sure would!' "

* Cussing. Using the f-word, cuss words, or calling people profane names.

* Ignoring rules of grammar: Saying "he don't" or "they was" instead of he doesn't and they were. Or saying "me and Joe" instead of Joe and I. These mistakes make others think you don't know the rules of grammar.

* Using abrasive regional accents. Avoid saying "deez and doze" instead of these and those. Avoid dropping an r or adding an r to a word. Avoid saying "yah" instead of yes. In some areas of the north, saying 'y'all' would be considered improper.

Lack of education is often not the cause of a poor speech habit. Educated people may speak, or lapse into speaking, the colloquial English that was used in neighborhoods where they grew up.

* Speaking with lack of confidence. It's difficult to gain respect from others when your statements sound tentative. If you have a statement to make, make it. Don't start with "I think," which indicates that you lack self-confidence.

Avoid ending sentences using a rising inflection as if a statement were a question.

In her Wall Street Journal column "Managing Your Career," Joann Lublin gives many examples of bosses who wanted to promote a person but couldn't do it because of their poor speech habits. But a growing number of businesses are hiring speech coaches for rising stars.

The coach analyzes an individual's conversation, pinpoints shortcomings, and videotapes the session. Clients take the tape home and do drills in front of a mirror.

But feedback from your boss and fellow workers is free, and it could be all the help you need to clean up a bad habit or two.

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