I’m taking a stand. I’m stating my position.
I want you to know where I am.
I don’t want you to know where I am . . . at.
“At” is a funny little word. It’s a preposition. Prepositions are words that are combined with nouns or pronouns to form a phrase.
Life was much simpler when I was learning to write and to speak. The rule was, “Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.” Straightforward, to the point, precise. Of course another rule was “Don’t write incomplete sentences.” That, of course, means that I shouldn’t have written a sentence like “Straightforward, to the point, precise.”
In this new age of communication, we are taught that some rules can be broken. Over time, some rules just go away. Thus it is that we can now end sentences with a preposition.
But, I have to tell you, I’ll never accept the sentence that ends with “at.” When you write it down and send it to me, I will mark it in red and send it back. When you email it to me, I’ll roll my eyes and hope that I can delete your message or mark it as spam. When you say it to me, I’ll mentally picture you in a . . . well, very demeaning way.
“Where are you?” Not “Where are you at?”
“Let’s check and see where we are.” Not “Let’s check and see where we are at.”
“At” is a preposition that sets time and place. It can be a very important word that brings precision to your message. But that precision is dependent on other words. “At,” like all prepositions, points. Without nouns and pronouns, “at” points to nothing.
In my admittedly warped view of the world, attaching “at” to the end of a sentence or question totally obliterates the time-space continuum. It’s like making a dramatic gesture — five seconds after you stop talking. To me, it’s nonsensical.
So, why am I so agitated about the use of “at?”
Because it’s a little word, governed by a simple rule. It has the potential to be powerful. Its abuse conveys no meaning and blemishes the reputation of its abuser.
“At” is like every other word. It matters. Words matter. In this time of cascading communication, make your words count. Make your words matter.
When you speak, I really want to know where you are.
There is a larger lesson. Those among us who are the most effective leaders are governed by simple rules. The principles defined by those rules are powerful. When leaders violate those rules, credibility is lost and reputations are destroyed.
Little things you do matter. At this moment, when others desperately seek women and men of character, let your principles guide you.