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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    Avoid Sentence Agreement Errors

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    Nothing makes writing look amateurish and unprofessional like basic sentence errors. This week we look at errors in pronoun-antecedent agreement and subject-verb agreement.

    Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
    First, let’s define some terms. A pronoun is a word that stands in for a noun (or noun phrase). An antecedent is the noun (or noun phrase) it stands in for. Pronouns and antecedents must agree in number, person, and gender.

    Number: Use singular pronouns for singular antecedents and plural pronouns for plural antecedents.

    • Everyone on the committee took his or her [not their] seat.
    • All the committee members cast their [not his or her] vote.

    Person: Pronouns may be first person, referring to the speaker(s), second person, referring to the listener(s), or third person, referring to something being spoken about. Always match the person of the pronoun to its antecedent.

    • Survey responders are asked to include an email address with their [not your] submissions.

    Gender: Pronouns may be masculine (he, his, etc.), feminine (she, hers, etc.), or neutral (it, its). Make sure to match the correct gender between pronoun and antecedent.   

    • The tugboat broke loose from its (not her) moorings.

    For more information about pronoun-antecedent agreement, see pages 325-326 in Write for Business and pages 366-367 in Write for Work.

    Subject-Verb Agreement
    The verb of a sentence must agree with the subject in number (singular or plural). Here are two basic examples.

    • Our manager happily agrees to order pizza for everyone. (singular subject and verb)
    • We certainly agree about that great idea. (plural subject and verb)

    Many things can make subject-verb agreement a bit tricky. Here are three examples.

    • Two subjects joined with and call for a plural verb.
    • When two subjects are joined with or, the verb must match the last subject.
    • Collective nouns (class, family, team, and so on) may be singular or plural, depending upon how they are used.

    See pages 323-324 in Write for Business or 363-365 in Write for Work for more explanations and examples.

    —Les

    Photo by Orin Zebest

    Is Led a Word?

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    One common search-engine query that lands business writers on the UpWrite Press site is the question, "Is led a word?" The short answer is "Yes." Led (short e sound) is the correct past tense of the verb lead (long e sound). Consider these examples.

    • Today I will lead my robot army to the zoo.
    • Yesterday I led them to the amusement park.
    • My robots are made of lead.

    Any spelling confusion likely rises from that final usage. Lead with a short e sound is a soft, dense metal that is great for shielding from radiation. It is, however, poisonous. In English, the same word is used for the graphite in pencils.

    —Lester Smith

    Photo by Ryusuke Seto

    One Word, Many Meanings: interest

    Friday, June 01, 2012

    The word interest has several different uses, both as a noun and as a verb:

    As a noun…
    interest has two clearly different meanings.

    • It can refer to curiosity about something, or to the thing that draws such attention:
      The boy showed a keen interest in learning about stocks.
      Birding has always been a favorite interest of Missy's.
    • Interest can also refer to a monetary gain on an investment or to the percentage charged on a loan:
      The interest we are paying on our new mortgage is nice and low.
      We put the interest we had earned on one of our accounts toward our down payment.

    As a verb…
    interest means "to attract and hold attention":

    • Does this class interest you?
    • Through careful promotion, we will interest employees in our self-help programs.

    In idioms…
    interest may be used in the following ways.

    • In the interest of suggests an advancement or improvement:
      In the interest of saving time, let's take a vote now.
    • Having a vested interest in something means that a person faces financial gain or political privilege through some activity.
      Considering that our CEO has a vested interest in the outcome, he will recuse himself from voting.

    Conclusion
    The more you absorb the richness of the English language, the better you will be able to hold your own reader's interest and achieve your writing goals.

    Photo by "the bridge"

    One Word, Many Meanings: bound

    Thursday, May 03, 2012

    The word bound is another term that can have many different uses in English.

    As a verb…
    bound can mean

    • tied or wrapped (past tense of bind).
      She bound her hair with a ribbon.
      The nurse bound
      the wound tightly.
    • leap or bounce. 
      We watched the dog bound across the field.
      (The past tense of bound is bounded.)

    As an adjective…
    bound can mean

    • connected or fastened.
      She was bound to her ailing sister by love and by guilt.
      Her long hair was bound with ribbons of red satin.
    • headed for a destination.
      The train was Seattle bound.
    • very likely.
      The storm was bound to hit soon.

    As a noun…
    bound can be

    • a leap or a bounce.
      The victory put a bound in his step.
    • a limit or a boundary (used in plural form).
      The action was outside the bounds of decency.

    In idioms…
    bound is frequently used in the following ways.

    • Out of bounds points to a metaphorical limit.
      That line of questioning was out of bounds.
    • Bound up, similar to caught up, indicates preoccupation.
      She was so bound up in the music that she didn't hear us arrive.

    Conclusion
    The more you immerse yourself in the English language, the more your writing will positively impact your readers. So take some time now and then to explore a dictionary or a thesaurus—just for fun. You're bound to enjoy it.

    —Joyce Lee

    Photo by Emery Way

    One Word, Many Meanings: account

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    English contains many words that are used as different parts of speech, with different meanings. One such word is account, a term that often crops up in business and elsewhere.

    As a noun…
    account may mean

    • a description, whether written or verbal: He gave an account of events that happened at the conference.
    • a reason for one's actions: It was on that account that she decided to sign the contract.
    • a financial tool, such as a checking or savings account in a bank, or a credit-card account.
    • importance, often used in the negative to refer to something of low value: That detail is of no account.

    As a verb…
    account may be transitive (needing an object) or intransitive (not needing an object).

    In the transitive form, the verb account may mean

    • to analyze: After accounting the situation thoroughly, we will act.
    • to consider: You should account yourself lucky to have escaped that situation.

    In the intransitive form, account is usually followed by the preposition for, and may mean

    • to cause: Her careful preparation accounted for much of our success.
    • to provide a reason: He was asked to account for his extra hours.

    In idioms…
    account is often used in the following ways:

    • The phrase on account of suggests a reason for something: On account of that embarrassing interview, I didn't get the job.
    • Another phrase, hold to account, suggests blame or responsibility: She will hold to account anyone who arrives late.

    Conclusion
    As you can see, the word account can be applied in several different ways. Use the term carefully to ensure clear business communications.

    —Joyce Lee

    Photo by o5com