Photo taken at the Maharaja Ranjit Singh War Museum in Ludhiana, Punjab
At times, it may seem that there is more war than peace in our working lives. Here are four idioms which may reflect what is happening at your office. See if you can use them.
- to cross the Rubicon
During Roman times, the modest river Rubicon marked the boundary from where Gaul (France) ended and Italy began. As a rule, Roman generals returning to Italy were ordered to disband their armies before crossing the Rubicon and entering Italian soil. Of course, the victorious and ambitious Julius Caesar thought otherwise. He crossed the Rubicon with his battle-hardened army and thus started a civil war.
To cross the Rubicon is take a decision from which there is no turning back.
By agreeing to consider the proposed changes, the Minister has crossed the Rubicon.
- to look daggers at somebody
Quite simply, this means to look sharply or furiously at someone.
“At the meeting, the production manager looked daggers at me. What did I do?”
- a loose cannon
In sixteenth-century English warships, cannons were mounted on carriages. And when the ships swayed back and forth, and moved up and down, some of these huge guns would roll about dangerously, endangering the crew.
In today’s world, a loose cannon is a person who behaves in an unpredictable way, often causing some form of disorder. I’m sure you’ve come across at least one loose cannon in your life.
“Careful, he is known to be a loose cannon.”
- on the warpath
The warpath was the route North American Indians would take to meet their adversary.
Nowadays, the term has come to mean being in an aggressive mood and looking for a fight.
“Avoid Prashant. He’s on the warpath today!”
I used Dictionary of Idioms and their origins by Linda + Roger Flavell as a reference for this post. If you would like to learn more about idioms and their origins, do pick this book up.
Many people find it difficult to write effective business emails. I see two reasons for this. The first is that they are not approaching the act of writing in a methodical manner. To put it bluntly, they do not give much thought to writing an email. They write it and then press the send button. The second reason is that they do not have the language to convey what they want to say.
In this post, we’ll be tackling the first reason: that is how to approach the act of writing an email. Here are my suggestions:
1. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Who are you writing this email to? Do you need to be formal or informal? How much background information should you include? Do you need to CC anyone else?
To answer all these questions. Think of a pair of shoes, that are not yours. And then, put your feet into them. Warning: it may hurt you!
If the email is for close colleagues, then you can be informal or semi-formal. If it is destined for the CEO, then perhaps you should be more towards the formal side of the scale.
If you are writing an email to colleagues who are working on the same project, then you may not need to give too much background information. However, if you are sending an email to a vendor, then you may need to give lots of background information.
2. Write short sentences
After delivering email writing workshops for many years, this has been my number one learning. Write short sentences. Write short sentences. Write short sentences. Yes, I really cannot emphasize it enough! If you are not confident of your grammar, this piece of advice really helps. I have seen long sentences winding their way through an email. And the longer they wind, the greater the chance that they will contain grammatical errors.
Try counting the words in your sentences. You should be able to manage with seven to twelve words per sentence. Try it. You’ll thank me later 🙂
3. Think before you hit that send button
Once it’s gone, it’s gone. There have been many embarrassing situations. For instance, a message CCed to everyone, when that was not the plan. Or, someone sent a message in a fit of anger to her boss. And then minutes later, the sender regrets the language she used. Or… Well, there are so many scenarios. You may have your own example.
I know that many people cannot resist pressing that send button. After pressing it, the email has left your screen. Thank god… But, remember, it will soon show up on someone else’s screen. So ask yourself these questions. Have I edited the message? Are there any grammatical errors? Have I explained myself clearly? Is the message polite? (For polite language, you can read my post on 7 tips to soften your language . )
Keep these 3 points in mind, and your email writing skills will improve. I promise it will. (See how effective a four-word sentence is.)
The moon at Udaipur palace
The moon has always evoked awe and a sense of mystery. This photo is of the art installation, Museum of the Moon, which is currently touring India.
Let’s look at some idioms and words with the moon:
- once in a blue moon
It refers to an event which hardly ever occurs.
The principal visits us once in a blue moon.
This word has a slight negative implication. It means working at a second job, which one does not declare to the authorities, so as to avoid paying taxes. One is doing something secretive in the dim moonlight.
This term means illicit liquor. Again, it is related to something which should not be exposed to bright sunlight. And that is how the moon enters the picture.
4. over the moon
When you’re over the moon, you’re really happy and excited.
5. to promise the moon
Our politicians often do this before an election. To promise the moon is to make promises which would be very difficult to keep.
6. asking for the moon
If you want or expect too much, then, yes: you are asking for the moon.
The client is so unreasonable; she’s asking for the moon!
If you are in Delhi, you can ask for and even get the moon (well, sort of). Do visit the Museum of the Moon at British Council in Connaught Place. It’s on till the 1st of March.
And here is a link for more stunning photographs of the moon on earth: