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Younger workers are smart with technology – but many are “dangerously dumb” with this…

Younger business people seem so much smarter and faster in many ways.

I have the privilege to work with and help many younger people in businesses.

The younger “workers” seem faster and smarter in many ways –  especially when it comes to technology and multi-tasking – yet there are some areas where they can be “dangerously dumb”.

TB talking to class

Here are a few examples. I know it can seem so “old-school” to fret about choosing the right words – but in business the wrong word can cost you money and credibility.

Because we are so “connected” by technology  – we can find out almost anything at any time.

We don’t have to retain and remember information. Then there’s spell check.

People who went to school pre-internet were taught how to spell and remember the differences in sound-a-like words.

From my experience working with younger workers, many do not know the difference with sound-a-like words. Basic things more mature generations take for granted!

olivetti lettera 32

(for younger readers: this is a typewriter! It did not have spell check! It did not connect to the internet)

Here are those examples:

1. A client had to pulp tens of thousands of dollars worth of marketing material because a younger writer used COMPLIMENTARY (free) instead of COMPLEMENTARY  (to add to/complement). They were saying their services were FREE rather than COMPLEMENTARY. The writer didn’t know there were different words. Spell check didn’t pick up the “mistake”!

2. On a the home page of a website, a whizz kid used  WEATHER instead of WHETHER

 Big deal you may say! People know what you mean.

I argue, to a more mature audience this sort of simple mistake makes the organisation look DUMB and UNPROFESSIONAL.

3. A younger media/advertising star was presenting and pitching and the audience started snickering because the presenter  wrote in a slide  PIER-GROUP PRESSURE rather than PEER-GROUP pressure.

As I said, these younger workers are NOT dumb – they are super-smart and super-successful.

In many ways they are “smarter” than I was at their age and they are “smarter” now too! They were probably too busy excelling at other things at school that they didn’t learn some basics.

They DO have gaps in their knowledge – and that’s where I come in to help!

A business mentor once advised me :

Don’t compete with “the kids”  in the workforce – find out the areas where you can help them – where you can fill gaps in their skills.

So what can YOU do to help make sure your younger workers don’t make mistakes like these?

1. I encourage more mature people (over 30!) to check the writing of younger workers. More senior staff  are often busy with management and leadership. I recommend that they also take time to make sure their younger writers are not making “dumb” mistakes that make the organisation look “dumb”

2. I encourage younger workers to involve  more mature workers in checking the writing.

It’s funny, the younger workers can fear getting embarrassed at someone finding a mistake in their writing. I encourage younger writers to involve more mature writers in the PROOF-reading process. Also, more mature staff can have a slower, more thorough PROOF-reading process.

We can work together.

Together, we can  help create a business culture where different “generations” are aware of the strengths and challenges of each other – and to work together without fear that one generation will think the other is “dumb” because they don’t know something.

3. I can come in for a quick and memorable session to help people become aware of some of the most DANGEROUS and confusing words.

I’ve built up a large  stack of real-life examples from working with different industries. Each industry has its own challenges.


For example, in the insurance business –  many younger writers use BARE instead of BEAR.

They knew BEAR is the animal so when they write the insurance “who bears the risk”  they think it has to be “the other bear”:  BARE!

These word confusion sessions are also a good way to help establish cross-generational support.

I recently ran a session where some more mature workers sat in because they wanted to be an on-going resource and support for the younger writers.

The recent session where the more mature staff sat it (including a very senior person) helped create a collaborative and supportive culture.

I can come in for sessions depending on your timing – a 2-hour session or even a quick 40 minute session to fit into a lunchtime learning session.

word nerd CU

If you are interested in other common examples of word confusion (and elaboration on the ones above) here are some links to my resource: CHOOSE THE RIGHT WORDS and links to some great international resources.



choose the right words SS



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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.



tony biancotti


Linked In – under Tony Biancotti


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