Write for Business - Blog

UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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    Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement: Masculine and Feminine Antecedents

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    If one of the antecedents is masculine and one is feminine, the pronouns should also be masculine and feminine.

    Will either Sandra or Rob return her or his extra laptop battery?

    (From Write for Business, 2nd ed., page 325, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 75)

    Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement: Two or More Antecedents

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Two or more antecedents joined by and are considered plural; two or more singular antecedents joined by or or nor are referred to by a singular pronoun.

    Jane and Florence opened their briefcases.
    Either Fred or Stan forgot his laptop in the conference room.

    (From Write for Business, 2nd ed., page 325, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 75)

    Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement: Singular and Plural Antecedents

    Thursday, September 09, 2010

    If one of the antecedents joined by or or nor is singular and one is plural, the pronoun is made to agree with the closer antecedent.

    Neither the employer nor his employees were ready for their [not his] trip.

    (From Write for Business, 2nd ed., page 325, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 75)

    The Lost Sale You Never Saw

    Wednesday, September 08, 2010

    Every day UpWrite Press staff members spend some time trolling the Web for business-writing articles to pass along via Twitter. Few things make us happier than pointing out a helpful article or site. And few things sadden us more than having to bypass something interesting, simply because of a careless use of language that would reflect poorly on our recommendation.

    Today, for example, I came across an announcement for a one-day course intended to help business people write more persuasively, with less stress. It sounds like a great course, except for the page's ungrammatical opening statement:

    For professionals whose grammar and sentence structure are under control, but want better results and responses from their business writing.

    Does that description feel a bit "off"? It's because the verb "want" is left hanging without a subject to match. It can't be "for professionals want" nor "whose want," so we're left with "grammar and sentence structure want," which is grammatically correct but makes no sense. A simple "who" would fix things: "but who want," referring correctly back to "professionals." Without that fix, however, we're left with the unintended irony of grammar and sentence structure that are hardly under control.

    My purpose is not to ridicule. (You'll note that I've not identified the site.) Instead, I merely want to point out a missed opportunity. This instructor will likely never know that someone considered spreading the word about the course, but was turned away by that opening statement.

    In today's competitive business world, careful writing - with editing and proofreading - is sometimes viewed as an unaffordable luxury. But can we afford to have a potential sale walk away, unnoticed, because of a seemingly careless a bit of writing?

    - Lester Smith

    Photo by Eastlaketimes

    Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement: Plural Pronouns

    Tuesday, September 07, 2010

    When a plural pronoun is mistakenly used with a singular indefinite antecedent, you need to change one or the other.

    Incorrect: Everyone must turn in their reports.
    Correct: Everyone must turn in his or her report.

    (From Write for Business, 2nd ed., page 325, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 75)