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    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    There are other things than vocabulary, spelling, and conjugation that go into communication. It is easy for most to gloss over a misspelled (good no spell check alert) word or poorly put together sentence. It has very little impact on how we are perceived unless it is constant.


    Whether or not it is intentional, some of our posts are apparently coming off a bit on the abrasive side. This is a very common problem that a lot of us have in our writing style which we are totally unaware of, but the consequences are far worse than the occasional grammar and spelling errors. People project attitudes, negative intent, and all kinds of personality traits that may or may not be real.


    I had very little English both in High School and at the University level (only one college class in my freshman year).  I’ve got a long way to go, but improving written communication is my primary motivation to participate on messageboards like this. That is why I often take controversial stands on issues that are hard to describe. Sometimes it is like pulling teeth to get me to make my point clear it seems. The main thing is that a forum like this can hit you between the eyes with communication errors that are far more important to correct than spelling and grammar.


    The point being is that in this day of everything being out there on the web, we have to be careful not to develop an online personality that is not a true reflection of ourselves. It will be found by someone checking up on you. When people react in an unexpected way to our posts, we need to take the hint and realize that somehow we are communicating very poorly  … or that we are actually jerks and everything is cool.


    I do the best that I can and hope that anyone who starts to read a nasty personality in what I write will point it out so that I can correct it. I’ll work on the length of that last sentence at some point, too.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    I get a lot more “after I read your post 5 times, I have no idea of what you are trying to say” than anything. … anything except someone writing that I said this or that, when I meant nothing close to those characterizations. I used to pass it off as other people not reading it correctly. Whether that is true or not, the fact still remains that if there is a way to make them understand, we need to do it or the evidence reveals that we are not good at communicating well whether or not we are technically good writers.

    If we get negative reactions from our writing that are unintended in a casual network like this, we have to be concerned about emails that we send to clients and colleagues. We can’t assume that the recipient is any better at reading our writings than some of the people on a forum such as this. These are colleagues, so it pretty much goes without saying that this is very likely.

    I’m airing my laundry a bit here to encourage others to take an inward look. I’m sure some will think that I’m claiming a high writing skill set and talking down to someone else. I’m very undereducated in English and don’t hide that fact (whether I want to or not).

    Elizabeth Renton

    From the few discussions I’ve participated in on this forum, I can say I’ve never had a problem understanding what you were trying to say. I’ve always thought your posts were well detailed and carefully crafted, and I think your online ‘persona’ does not come off as negative or unclear, at least to me. I too try to carefully respond to forum postings, emails, etc. with what I hope is a pleasant-sounding, clear response. But sometimes we have no control over the way words in an email or post will sound to the person reading them. It’s the single biggest complaint from the ‘old school’ non-internet-savy coworkers and colleagues of mine…they hate the way words can be misconstrued without the helpful hints you gather from a person’s tone in a conversation. Several times I’ve had to go back and edit the content of an email after looking at it critically and realizing that a simple harmless phrase could come across as sarcastic or rude, which was not my intent.

    Thanks for posting on this topic. I think it’s a good reminder to everyone to always strive to project yourself in the best professional image possible.

    Jason T. Radice

    Wow, great topic. One that is close to my heart.

    While I agree that the expression of opinion or conveyance of information can be somewhat confrontational to some, ultimately, it is irrelevant. It’s a message board. However, it can be somewhat educational for those with a truly open and inquisitive mind. Most are stuck with their own opinion using their set of ‘facts’, and where they got those facts is another matter altogether. If I see something contrary to my experiences and education, I always cross check various resources and apply my exceptional logic to determine the result.

    That said, I have a great respect for the Queen’s English, and very often write above the heads of those around me. Yes, I occasionally use ‘u’s in words like colour. I and I spell gray with an ‘e’. And I’m not even Canadian, eh? Words mean things, very specific things, and I like to take advantage of that. Does that make me pompous? Yes. Is it egotistical? Absolutely. I am of the mind that an ego in the design profession is a good thing. More LAs need to develop an Architect-like ego to push the profession forward, rather than playing second fiddle.

    In my professional life, I have had to realize a concerted effort to abridge my implementation of vocabulary in order to facilitate comprehension amongst colleagues. I am oft dumbfounded to the fundamental level that some vocally articulate or inscribe language whilst employed in a professional venue. One contemplates how said persons managed to matriculate and procure a professional degree.

    Most magazines and newspaper are written at a 9th grade level (except the New Yorker and Sports Illustrated), as that has been determined to be the level that a majority of the populous can comprehend while still being efficient to print. Sad, really. And to hear some speak, accounting for nerves, some of the best architects and landscape architects are downright embarrassing. However, presentation skills are just a part of the problem for the nation at large. Basic dialogue seems to be deficient in the population as a whole. One should be trained I proper communication early in life. Thankfully, I am from a region where northern standard English is spoken, but that just accounts for the accent. Speech pathology should play a major role in the elementary school. You can be very book smart, but if you can’t speak properly, it’s lost. Of course, regional dialects add ‘flavor’ to this nation, but when an immigrant can speak proper English (albeit with an accent) better than a native born person with free schooling, that is unacceptable. We’ve all spoken with customer service on the phone or at the fast-food location where one can literally not understand the words that are coming out of their mouth.

    Textually, the advent of messaging and various short-hand techniques have obliterated the written language. It has become accepted by many that the @ symbol is how you actually convey the word ‘at’. ROLF!!! I see it in the generations that followed mine (and I’m not that old) a steep decline in writing skills. Word processors have also contributed to this issue, as one does not need to be able to write properly, the computer will fix it. It has become a crutch like a calculator is for my generation. I often make a joke ending in “I went to public school,” and it is funny, because there is always a bit of truth in good humor. Unfortunately, humor and sarcasm is very difficult to express in written form, leading to those lacking language skills to become easily offended.

    Rob Halpern

    But to Andrew’s point: the issue is not simply one of changing technology and misunderstandings, I think. The internet has made acceptable and normal and more snarky, the sarcastic, arrogant tone in postings. If you met someone who spoke as some post, you’d walk away muttering “jerk”. To read some threads on this Forum, a visitor might think that L.A.s are one angry, victimized lot. But on closer inspection, that impression comes from the smallest handful of posters. They just post a lot!

    But do these people communicate that anger in person? At the office? With clients?
    I’d suggest, Probably so. What you see is what you get. And when someone is angry and confrontational they may not recognize it or see it as behavior to be curbed. As to employment, you have to be pretty damn talented to be endlessly forgiven a nasty attitude. A practice will keep you as long as it pays for them and when you are more trouble than you are worth… you post angry threads her(The above was typed with a wry expression and a bunch of ambivalent feelings. Make of it what you will)

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I’m one of the few people who don’t post our full names, although I think it would take all of 20 seconds to find it out. The reason that I don’t is because that I don’t want to build a wrong impression of myself through a pattern of poor writing and misinterpretation from less than polished delivery of thoughts. I actually dropped off of the Lounge for about nine months last year because I felt like I was doing just that. Maybe I’m paranoid.

    My concern comes from the fact that I project entire personalities on posters based upon what they write and how they write it. There are several people who have very different points of view than I do, yet I see them as very likable people whom I’d like to meet. I can easily name a few. They can be passionate and disagree strongly, but never come off as talking down to anybody or belittling what they don’t agree with. There is a communication skill level there as well as personality traits that go beyond how well a sentence is put together, or spelling, or vocabulary.

    However, there are some people, just a few, that seem to be very unlikable based on how they write despite the fact that I can agree with many of their points of views. I’ll be honest and say that I really don’t think I like these people, yet I never met them. I also have to ask myself if these people are really jerks, or is it that they don’t recognize how they come off.

    It makes me ask myself the question “do I sound like that?”.

    The point of this thread from my perspective is to help myself understand what I could be doing to improve my online persona and clearly it is to get some others to think about looking at their own and asking themselves if they want too be associated with the personality of the character that they portray.

    Rob Halpern

    This may be a quibble, but what I was thinking was more how people behave with their colleagues (when they can “be themselves”) rather than with clients.
    Altho I have known a very talented designer who could be so contemptuous of the clients that I privately asked his employer why he was allowed to ever meet clients. He is no longer with that firm.

    Tanya Olson

    There is nothing pompous or egotistical about wanting to be a better writer.

    I disagree, though, that general writing skills are declining. I think they are probably improving – read the 40 under 40 series from the New Yorker or any number of the millions upon millions of new books being published each year in the US. Readership has skyrocketed in popularity. More prolific readers are inescapably better writers. Language skills probably seem to be declining because we have ever-increasing access to poor writing via chat groups and comment pages just like this. 20 years ago it was all ‘professional’ writing, now its all ‘amateur’ writing.

    Ben Yahr

    That is why I often take controversial stands on issues that are hard to describe. Sometimes it is like pulling teeth to get me to make my point clear it seems.

    This seems quite dishonest and childish. So you feel the need to have the last word in every discussion, and convince people that you are right, even on issues that you don’t necessarily believe in?

    The point of this thread from my perspective is to help myself understand what I could be doing to improve my online persona…

    A humble suggestion for improving anyone’s online persona is to be honest and passionate, participating only in select discussions that you feel you can add a unique viewpoint, or a piece of missing information. Most issues are not cut and dry, and writing a thousand word essay for every single discussion topic stifles participation by those who may actually have a different viewpoint.

    Tanya Olson

    Andrew, you hit it on the head when you said that you ‘project’ entire personalities on people based on the way they post. Of course all human interaction is based on just that – projection…..
    You are talking about accurately conveying your idea-arguement-supposition-suggestion AND your attitude about that subject AND your general attitude about life in a way that is matched to every other person’s projections about YOU. It can’t possibly come across accurately to everyone. I laud you for trying. Its funny (tragic?) how earnestness can come across as snobbery, snubbery or nastiness.

    I think we must all have a ‘writing voice’ that is much different from our face to face personality – based on the things lots of you wrote about – education, quantity and quality of what we read, practice at writing and cultural value of different types of language use. I really try hard not to project attitude too much on these kinds of groups. Believe me, this one is much more polite, concise, earnest, honest and well-written than the vast majority of other groups! Or maybe I just ‘project’ that attitude because of our shared profession…???

    There’s nothing wrong with literally saying that you are feeling annoyed or that something is supposed to come across as ironic or cynical or fuzzy and warm or whatever.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I don’t take positions that I don’t belive in.

    I only persist when I am not effectively getting across the meaning of what I’m actually trying to say. I could leave well enough alone, but it would not solve the problem. That problem being that I’m not conveying the point so that whoever reads it understands it …revise and repost to see if they get it.

    I have no way of knowing if it is that I’m not writing it well, or if the other person/people just are not digesting it well. It really dos not matter which of those is the case.

    Your post is an example of this. You assumed that I take a controversial for the sake of being controversial which is not the case. I’m not sure if that is based on how I wrote it, or how you read it, but here I am trying to clear it up for what was actually meant. I’m willing to believe that it might be my writing. Are you willing to believe that it might be your reading?

    I don’t attack other participants or call them idiots when I disagree ( I was recently called an idiot in one thread, told I should be fired in another). I find that when someone disagrees with me, it is an opportunity to look into it more deeply and understand both their points and mine better. It is a learning experience for me every time. I suspect that most people who engage in discussions get the same thing out of it.

    Roland Beinert

    At least you are making the effort to think about how you appear to others, Andrew.
    I was reading the book Traffic recently, and at one point the author talks about how the anonymity of the car makes people act in ways they never would act when they are face to face with another person. I think the internet is the same way. People feel anonymous on the internet (keep in mind I’m talking in general here, not talking about you or anyone else). I guess people could track you down if they really wanted, but most won’t. So on the internet even people who are generally pretty nice face to face feel free to attack you for disagreeing with them or hold a grudge for that one time you said you’re opposed to something they are proponants of. What’s to stop them?
    That may be why you’re being called an idiot or being told you should be fired. People don’t have to respond in an intelligent way if they don’t want to or figure out what you’re really trying to say. They can vent their anger on you and most people will never know who they really are.

    David J. Chirico

    “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Thomas Mann

    What is needed is patience, something that the internet forces us to put aside. Speed is the enemy of thought. As soon as we get an email we need to respond. There is no time for squiggles, cross-outs, arrows or editing marks. Just think of the difference in our replies if we responded by writing letters to each other. We may have to put them aside while we find a stamp, maybe read it again, change a few lines. Maybe even change your opinion the next day.

    People don’t reveal themselves all at once. Think of the clients you have known for years. Do you know them better now or when you first met? To understand people it takes time and patience. People unfold slowly over time. Relationships need to be nurtured and basted.

    It’s called virtual reality for a reason, because its not reality. I have never read anything on here and made a determination on someones personality. Its way too superficial. If you have ever been involved in chat rooms or blogs with people, without fail someone will try to get everyone together and meet to “put a face to the name”. Its our nature to bump up against each other. Thats the only way to be an individual.

    Cliff See

    there are many styles of writing, might depend on the format and audience.

    for me it’s casual here on the computer, (unless emailing to clients or for business etc)… but this is like email, spelling is important, but perfect grammar? naww… why take out all the fun on a social network site?

    being abrasive, condescending or brutish should be avoided always, here or in “real” life… there is almost never a need for it, we are just passing through anyway, please enjoy while you can!

    however a resume and portfolio must show one can write professionally and in a formal business style for purposes of employment… but thank god we don’t have to be that way 24/7… a good topic.

    Cliff See

    yes, we are like onions, many layers, it takes a while to know someone… patience is a finer virtue than grammar!

    “Walking on water wasn’t built in a day.” – Jack Kerouac :))

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