Business Etiquette Advice

Business etiquette advice for the professional woman.

Five Grammar Rules You Absolutely, Seriously Have to Know

Grammar RulesIf you want to be taken seriously as a professional, good grammar matters! Particularly for lawyers, where you get major points for knowing your Bluebook and local style conventions, there can be some serious grammar nerds around — and they will judge you if you use “none” as a plural or confuse further and farther. Even those of us not working with grammar nerds need to get at least SOME grammar rules straight, though! This is my list of the five grammar rules you must know if you want to be taken seriously:

  1. Your/You’re
  2. They’re/Their/There
  3. Its/It’s — and other general apostrophe problems.
  4. Proper use of commas. This a huge topic, but it’s one worth knowing well because so many things can go wrong with commas. Whether it’s an error like “eats, shoots & leaves” or an error like “I’m coming to eat Grandfather,” they drive me batty. This Grammarly page looks like a good overview.
  5. Word choice — specifically as it applies to your industry. This is a pretty open ended suggestion, but in some ways it matters the most! For example, you wouldn’t want to work with a First Amendment lawyer who used “slander” and “libel” interchangeably… or a wedding planner who misspelled “stationery.” You should be absolutely sure you understand the meaning and proper usage of any words you use often at work, as well as any terms of art.

Ladies, what does your list of “must know” grammar rules include? Which grammar mistakes bug you the most? (Here’s our last discussion on grammar annoyances.)  

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Open Thread: Vacation Time

Vacation Time | CorporetteAs the close of 2015 is almost upon us, here’s a question: did you use your vacation time? If you did (congratulations), please regale us with stories — wheredja go, whadja do, how’d you find the time to plan/schedule it, which app/service would you recommend, etc. — but if you DIDN’T (which historically was me), why not? Did you just have too much work? Did you not feel comfortable scheduling something with your work calendar? Was it a budget/priority thing? For everyone — do you have any big plans for 2016?

For my $.02 — I almost never used all of my vacation time, and looking back it was largely because I worried it would reflect poorly on me at work. I also was worried that I would spend all this time/energy/money researching a vacation only to have it cancelled at the last minute due to work. I felt pretty comfortable in BigLaw scheduling trips to see my parents, both because we had religious reasons (Christmas, Easter) for the trips, as well as because I knew my parents had good Internet service and would understand if I had to turn it into a working vacation. And of course I would tack on a day or two here or there if I was traveling for a friend’s weekend wedding or whatnot.

But in terms of fun vacations, particularly in places without reliable Internet access? The stress usually stopped me from going. For example, my now husband took me to Paris a few months after we started dating, and I was terrified the trip would be cancelled, that there would somehow be a disaster ON the 5-day trip (I had nightmares of having to find an “Internet cafe” to work in for hours, paying in 15-minute increments with a dial-up modem). I worried that when I left I would be working without sleep to get all the work done — and I worried that when I returned there would be a mountain of work waiting for me. The trip turned out fine, of course. (Ok, I got food poisoning, which was less than awesome for a romantic vacation, and we totally failed to make it to Reims because I misunderstood the train schedule, but workwise it was fine.)

Another reason I didn’t travel much while working in BigLaw: I could never get the timing right to travel with friends, and I never dated anyone seriously enough to even ponder a vacation together (until I met my husband) — and I was hesitant to travel by myself as a single woman. In my non-profit job, I didn’t have nearly as much vacation time, I didn’t have seniority to choose when to take it, and we didn’t have the budget anyway to take vacation without some serious sacrifices. [Read more…]

Should You Keep Your Blog a Secret at Work?

Should You Keep Your Blog a Secret at Work? | CorporetteIf you have a personal blog that’s not work-related, should you keep your blog a secret at work? When does your company need to know? Reader K wonders…

As a fellow lawyer, I followed your blog closely back in my NYC law firm days. I now have a more flexible legal position. (I often work remotely as my primary job is meeting with clients.) My question is concerning blogging — as I can’t express much creativity in my day job, I’ve been blogging at night and on weekends (on my own non-work laptop). It’s a personal non-money making blog — in fact it’s more of a money pit. My blog has nothing to do with work, I never even mention work — nor is it controversial. (It’s about shopping & travel.) What is the etiquette concerning letting people at work know about my blog? (My work FB friends know, but I don’t offer the info to anyone unless asked.) I know you blogged anonymously for a long time — I thought about doing this but it seemed like it might hold me back (Google authorship, guest posting, etc.). Should I worry about work “finding out”?

Great question, K. I “came out” to my law firm a month or two after I started Corporette because, even though I wasn’t making much, I had started the blog as a business and was worried about running afoul of an ethics rule my firm had regarding disclosing business connections. Still, there can be a big difference between a handful of HR people knowing about your blog, and attaching your name to the blog publicly — both for professional and personal reasons — so let’s get into it.

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How to Give Notice When You Leave a Job

how to give noticeWhat are some “best practices” you should follow when it’s time to quit? Reader T asks about how to give notice when you leave a job…

We’ve discussed in the past about how to know if it is the right time to move on to a new job, how to interview while working, and how to transition files to other coworkers after you give your notice — but I would love to hear everyone’s stories of how they actually gave their notice. Procedurally, logistically, how does one “give notice”? Whom do you tell? In person or via email? How have Corporette readers given their notice when they have left a job in the past?

Congratulations on your new job, T! We have talked about how to quit gracefully, how to quit when your mentor is your boss, and how to handle exit interviews, but not in a while, and I’m excited to hear what readers say. Personally, every time I’ve quit I’m surprised at how maudlin I become. Even with jobs I couldn’t WAIT to quit with some dramatic “blaze of glory” action (um, remember this story about the flight attendant sliding to freedom?), I’ve inevitably sat across from my “evil” soon-to-be-former boss and gotten teary-eyed about how much I would miss everyone. So, hey. For my $.02:

 

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Office Holiday Party Etiquette

Office Holiday Party Etiquette | CorporetteI’m working on a monster post about what to wear to your office holiday party, and in the meantime found all these great articles about office holiday party etiquette, which we haven’t discussed in forever — so I thought we should discuss today, as a bit of a precursor to the “what to wear to your office holiday party” post. (Although of course feel free to share what you plan to wear to your party this year!)

For my $.02, it comes down to some simple rules:

  • If it’s your first holiday party, don’t assume — talk to others so you know what to expect, because there can be a huge variation in office holiday parties. Some offices have a midday Santa hat+suit kind of luncheon; others have a Friday night affair at a hotel ballroom.  (One of my old offices did the hotel ballroom for the low key affair, and another black tie ball in January just for attorneys.) If you can’t ask anyone, look for clues — if it’s a Friday night after work, odds are good that people are going to be still wearing their office clothes (with one small tweak like a party blazer or statement necklace).  If it starts at 5, it may be over by 7.  Another way to gauge the formality: where the event is held.  If it’s chosen for locality (the closest hotel ballroom, the closest restaurant, etc), odds are it’s going to be more low key than an event a bit further from the office.
  • Do not get tipsy, let alone drunk.  Save it for the office after party or when you’re at an event that isn’t affiliated with work. (Many moons ago, we also talked about what your drink says about you at the office cocktail party.)
  • Make it about the people, not the food or drink.  That’s a good hallmark of any party attendee, but it goes doubly here.
  • Talk to everyone.  Fight the urge to huddle in the corner with your friends, or only try to network with the VIPs.  It’s a great time to smile and laugh with your subordinates, as well as support staff.  A corrollary:
  • Don’t just talk about work.  If your boss comes over and needs to discuss a project, that’s one thing — but assume that people want to talk about anything but that.  Politics and religion are still dicey topics, of course, but there are a ton of other party-appropriate conversation topics.
  • If the next day is a work day, it’s business as usual. 

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Cute Office Supplies: When To Use Them

Cute Office Supplies | CorporetteOur post the other day about the cute file folders got me thinking: When should a professional woman actually use cute office supplies? Should you use them only in a home office? Only for presentations? As part of a cohesive system for all of your office work? (Pictured: Smiley Face Binder Clips, $4 for 40 at Amazon.)

For my $.02, I’ve always loved cute office supplies — something about going to Staples or Kate’s Paperie or the like takes me back to the happy feelings of back-to-school shopping. (Yeah, I was that kid.) But once I got to my law firm, this is how I actually used them: for personal things in my office only. I had a nice folder for keeping track of my CLE credits, and a nice folder for holding my old timesheets and the like — things that I filed myself and didn’t need to hand off to someone else. They sat on my desk (as part of my organized office system) and made me happy — but they were but a small pop of color amidst the seas of red Redwelds, brown Bankers Boxes, and beige manila folders. It was still worth it to me to seek out pretty things and buy them, but it was just for a bit of silliness to cheer me up at the office.

Ladies, when do you use cute office supplies? Do you have a place for them in your life?

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