ABCs for Graduates

Did you have a teacher or mentor who imparted wise words of advice that not only stayed with you but also guided you to make many more right choices than wrong ones?

Considering how fortunate I was to have had many wonderful souls teach me by modeling how we humans should communicate with one another, I drafted an A-to-Z vocabulary list for you to share with current and future graduates.

ABCs for Graduates


One’s attitude affects everything, including the inner voice that says how to interact with others, tackle hardships, and live each moment. You will always accomplish more for your benefit and the good of others with a positive attitude.


Beliefs shape perceptions of reality, but simply being convinced for years that something is true does not make it so. The more you challenge yourself to listen, observe, research, think critically, and ultimately affirm a view or reach a different conclusion, the more people will value your ideas and the rationale behind them.


Some people thirst for praise, while others struggle to receive a basic compliment. Consider your intended recipients before offering compliments, always give them sincerely, and accept kind words from others with grace and discretion, never allowing flattery to go to your head.


Respect and admiration are earned, but a proper show of deference is often necessary or expected according to social norms. Likewise, your willingness to defer to someone older or more senior in rank will reflect positively on your character and perhaps more favorably on you than on the one who commands it.


Certain cultures frown on direct eye contact in various situations, and by most standards, staring is rude and/or creepy. Nevertheless, you’ll build credibility and convey your sincerity and interest in others by inviting and maintaining eye contact (an art to master) with individuals who welcome it.


Instead of addressing their concerns in rational ways, people too often allow fear mongers to consume their minds with worry and accordingly manipulate their behaviors. Control your fears by eliminating the unknowns (e.g., examine the causes and explore the what ifs), and if the concern is valid, combat helplessness by taking rational steps to prevent or mitigate undesired outcomes.


It takes only two to cause real harm—hurt feelings included—from their idle chatter, even when they’re speaking the truth without malicious intent. If you want to be known as trustworthy and sincere, start by distinguishing yourself as someone who both avoids and discourages gossip.


Hogs and gluttons are often synonymous terms, although the human description can pertain to all sorts of overindulging, including talking so much that others don’t have a chance to partake in a conversation. Adopt a habit of wrapping up before people get frustrated and lose interest.


Every worthwhile endeavor requires an investment, such as becoming educated, researching, planning, working, consuming nutritious food, conditioning the body, tending to relationships, allocating money, etc. If you gain something great without sacrifice, you will likely feel you don’t deserve it or you won’t fully value it.


It’s entirely normal for a person’s moods to change situationally, yet individuals are often known for their uplifting or depressing outlook. Attract more positive people, accomplish more, and more fully appreciate your life by striving to maintain a joyful spirit.


An act of kindness can be as simple as smiling and saying, “Let me help you,” while opening the door of a store for a mom who is holding the hands of her young children. Unfortunately, certain people will respond negatively to unsolicited kindness, but more often than not, you’ll ignite positive emotions and reactions by making such gestures.


People often attribute a situation or outcome to sheer luck, good or bad. Whether or not you believe in luck or that things happen for a reason, keep in mind that your reaction to any circumstance—especially what you say—is primarily up to you.


When transparency becomes the word of the day, mystery goes by the wayside. You don’t need to know the intimate details of your acquaintance lives—or for them know yours—to be authentic and adequately informed.


Nonsense (a.k.a. garbage, baloney, gibberish, etc.) is neither factual nor wise by any measure just because someone with a level of authority or education spoke it. Use common sense and discretion to avoid consuming or spreading the day’s junk.


More often than not, the reference to one seems insignificant: one day on the job, one word of a two-thousand-word report, one lesson towards mastering a complex skill, etc. If you occasionally feel you’re facing too many steps ahead, or you’re all alone, focus on how readily one becomes two, three, and so on, and count on yourself to succeed.


Everything has a price. As you work to acquire what you need and desire, take stock of something you have been given, imagine your life without it, and be grateful.


People pose questions for many different reasons. Before choosing if or how to respond, consider the motives of inquiring minds and feel free to ask, “Why do you need to know?”


Silence speaks volumes and creates space for countless thoughts. Embrace pauses.


Them are groups of people who are not us. Use caution when categorizing your fellow humans, who are likely much more like you than not.


Life has no guarantees. Thus, while weighing options and hypotheticals is often prudent, don’t let uncertainty lock you in a state of indecision, thereby producing some outcome you hoped to avoid.


The building blocks for any language are its vocabulary. Communicate effectively and intelligently by acquiring an extensive vocabulary, strive for clarity (such as by avoiding doublespeak), and convey sincerity by using words that you are reasonably certain your audience will understand.


Wishes that begin in childhood often continue through life. If pursuing your passion would give your life greater meaning and purpose, don’t treat it like a silly fantasy.


A xenurine is an armadillo—a mammal with bony plates that cover the head, back, legs, and tail like body armor. Instead of telling yourself that the cruel world is out to get poor little you, rebuff victimhood by challenging yourself and pursuing goals that make you a strong, self-reliant individual.


Yesterday occurred in the past. Either cherish your experiences and the stories of others or learn from them and move on.


A zipper might last a lifetime, but a bit of stray fabric or a single thread caught on a tooth can temporarily jam the mechanism. At times, either opening your mouth or zipping your lips will put you in a jam that you cannot avoid, so do your best by doing what is necessary: speak up or stay silent.

Which words would you choose for your ABC guide?

Feel free to copy the list as is, or exchange some of my words for your own, and pass it along as your timely and timeless gift.

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

Thoughts or questions? Please contact Sallie Boyles, owner of Write Lady Inc., to exchange ideas about effective communications and gain from professional writing and editing services. Receive monthly tips and insights by subscribing at