Etiquette - English Oral Skills Notes

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  • Etiquette is the rules that indicate the proper and polite manner to behave.

Use of Courteous Language

  • When one uses courteous language, he/she uses a language that is very polite and polished to show respect.
  • At no time should you allow yourself be rude, ill-mannered, impolite, inconsiderate, or even thoughtless.
  • Being and remaining polite will go a long way in building relationships.
  • To show politeness and respect:
  • Use the word please in request;
  • Say thank you to those who help or compliment you.
  • Start your requests or interrogatives beginning with words such as can, could, may, will, or would.
  • Say excuse me when you interrupt other people or intrude into their time or privacy.
  • Use question tags.
  • In this section, we shall learn the words and phrases that show respect.
    1. Please
      • We use it when you want someone to do something for you. For example: Can you pass that cup, please?
      • also used when you want something from someone. For example: Lend me ten shillings, please.
    2. Thank you
      • Use it whenever someone does something for you.
      • Use it when someone commends you.
    3. Sorry
      • Say it any time you inconvenience someone.
      • Say it when step on someone’s toes, etc.
      • Also when someone asks you something you cannot do.
    4. Excuse me
      • To introduce a request to someone, or to get past someone, use this phrase. For example: Excuse me, can you show me where Amina lives?
    5. Pardon me
      • Almost as ‘excuse me’

Exercise 1

Jennifer has gone to the shop to buy a bar of soap. The shopkeeper tells her to be polite the next time she comes to buy from him. Showing where, which polite phrases could Jennifer have
failed to use?

Exercise 2

Read the dialogue below and then explain how Jacinta expresses politeness.

John: I would like to send this letter to japan by airmail, how much is the charge?
Jacinta: It’s one pound, do you need extra stamps?
John: I do, I have been also expecting a package from New-York. Here is my identity card and receipt.
Jacinta: Would you mind signing this form? Here is the package.
John: Finally, I would like to send this registered letter to London.
Jacinta: Please fill in the complete address in capital letters.

Telephone Etiquette

  • Telephone etiquette are the rules that demonstrate the proper and polite way to use your phone/telephone.
  • It starts from how you prepare for phone calls to when you end the call.

Preparation for Phone Call

The following should be done before placing a call:

  • Ensure you have enough time. It will not auger well to suddenly end the conversation because of insufficient airtime.
  • Go to a place where there is silence. Too much noise will distract your attention.
  • Think through exactly what you want to say. Write it down if possible so you don’t forget what to say or ask and look as though you didn’t have anything to say.

Tips to Display When Making a Call

Whether at work, at home, or on your mobile phone, remember to display the tips below at all times:

  1. Identify yourself at the beginning of the call.
  2. Speak clearly and slowly especially when leaving the message.
  3. Speak with a low tone of voice. Be sure to know how loud you may be.
  4. Always end with a pleasantry, for example,’ Have a nice day.’
  5. Let the caller hang up first.
  6. Stay away from others while talking on the phone. They don’t need to hear your private conversation.

What to Avoid

  1. Avoid being distracted by other activities while speaking. Some of these activities include:
    • Rustling papers
    • Chewing
    • Driving
    • Speaking with someone
    • Shopping
    • Working on the computer
  2. Avoid allowing interruptions to occur during the conversation.
  3. Do not engage in an argument with the caller.
  4. Talking too loudly.

Not at these Places

The following are places you should not make a call. You should even have your cell phone in a silent mode or switch it off altogether.

  • Bathrooms
  • Hospitals
  • Waiting rooms
  • Meetings
  • Museums
  • Places of worship
  • Lectures
  • Live performances
  • Funerals
  • Weddings

Telephone Conversations

Here we shall focus on majorly business telephone conversations. It should be noted that there are patterns that are followed; but not all will follow this rigid pattern. The six patterns include:

  1. The phone is answered by someone who asks if he/she can help.
  2. The caller makes a request either to be connected to someone or for information.
  3. The caller is connected, given information or told that that person is not present at the moment.
  4. The caller is asked to leave a message if the person who is requested for is not in.
  5. The caller leaves a message or asks other questions.
  6. The phone call finishes.

Exercise 1

Read the telephone conversation below and then answer questions that follow.

Pauline: (a form two student, Wajanja School) ring ring… ring ring …
Secretary: Hello, Wajanja School, this is Ms Esther speaking. How may I be of help to you?
Pauline: Yes, this is Pauline Karanja a form two student calling. May I speak to the principal, please?
Secretary: I am afraid MsKaluma is not in the office at the moment. Would you like to leave a message?
Pauline: I would really want, thanks. When she comes back, tell her I wanted to ask for one day permission. My brother is sick and I would like to request her that I report one day after the opening day. It is I who will be left with my siblings as the brother goes to the hospital. That is all.
Secretary: Sorry for that, I wish him quick recovery. I would give her the message as soon.
Pauline: I would be grateful madam. Thanks again.
Pauline: Welcome Pauline. Just ensure you report as stated here.
Secretary: Ok have a nice day madam.
Pauline: You too have a perfect day. Goodbye

  1. With examples, outline the patterns of telephone conversation in above.
  2. Identify evidences of telephone etiquette tips displayed by Pauline in the conversation above.

Exercise 2

Your sibling is very sick. You are planning to make a doctor a phone call to come to your home to provide medication.

  1. State any three preparations you would put in place before making this important call.
  2. Give four bad habits you would avoid when making this call.

Exercise 3

Joan has just called the parent to ask them to pay the school fee. Unfortunately, the parent is not happy with the way she has made the call. Identify any four telephone etiquette tips she could have failed to display.

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