June 2014  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Test Your Writing Acumen

The apostrophe is possibly the most misused bit of punctuation in our language. The statements below contain choices that will test your knowledge of apostrophe use. In each sentence, select the correct word within parentheses.

  1. Because of the construction near the (building’s, buildings) front entrance, please use the back service door.
  2. Three (ands, and’s) and two (buts, but’s) connected several thoughts into one rambling sentence.
  3. I don’t want to hear any (can’t’s, can’ts) about this project.
  4. The project manager requested the entire (teams’, team’s) full effort.
  5. Manny (Solis’, Solis’s) plan is the best solution to the problem.
  6. We took my car because (its, it’s) tank was full.
  7. I added ten (dollars’, dollar’s) worth of gas to be sure I had enough.

You can check your answers at the end of this newsletter.

Tricky Subject-Verb Agreement
Part 2

In last month’s eTips, we looked at subject-verb agreement in sentences with delayed and compound subjects as well as in those that use “be” verbs. This month we continue the lesson by considering other challenging subject-verb agreement issues.

Indefinite Pronouns

  1. If the indefinite pronoun suggests a single entity (each, anyone, everything, somebody, either, neither), pair it with a singular verb. Don’t get sidetracked by plural words or phrases that come between the subject and its verb.

    Each of the seminar participants is invited to the banquet afterward.

    In this example, though it’s tempting to use the plural verb “are” with “participants,” that would be incorrect. If you aren’t sure whether to use a plural or a singular verb, try reading the sentence without the phrase that causes confusion:

    Each is invited to the banquet afterward.
  2. If the indefinite pronoun suggests more than one, pair it with a plural verb.

    Few were interested in the opening act.

    Most were there only to see the main performer.

Indefinite Pronouns with Singular or Plural Verbs

  • Some indefinite pronouns, such as any, most, all, or some, may be either singular or plural subjects. In these cases, the verb must match the number of the object of the preposition in the intervening phrase:

    Most of the participants were pleased with the initial session. (plural)

    Most of the day was spent rewriting the organization’s bylaws. (singular)

Relative Pronouns

  • When a relative pronoun is used to introduce a dependent clause, the verb must agree with the pronoun’s antecedent.

    Sue and Monte are the workers who were present at the time of the incident. (Who refers to the antecedent workers, which is plural.)

    Sue is the worker who was present at the time of the incident. (Who refers to the antecedent worker, which is singular.)

Collective Nouns

  • A collective noun can be either singular or plural. When it refers to a group as a single unit, it takes a singular verb. When it refers to the individual members of the group, it takes a plural verb.

    The board is voting on a pressing issue later today.

    The board are required to keep their opinions to five minutes or less during the meeting.

Nouns That Are Plural in Form

  • Some nouns appear to be plural in form but are actually singular in meaning. Use a singular verb with such words.

    The news about the merger is quite positive.

    Politics is a subject to be avoided with him.

    Sixty dollars is a small price to pay for so much ad coverage.

    Exceptions to this rule include the nouns scissors, earnings, premises, and proceeds. Although singular in meaning, these words take a plural verb.

You can find more information about subject-verb agreement beginning on page 323 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace.

Trainer Tip

Sometimes, during a training session, your audience may drift, and you’ll need to pull them back on track. Instead of raising your voice or using a whistle or bullhorn to get their attention, try this “call and response” trick: Loudly say “Hey!” and wait, indicating with a hand gesture (perhaps your hand cupped to your ear) that they should respond. Then say “Hey” a second time, again indicating that they should respond. Some will. Keep repeating the call until the entire room responds with “Hey!” Then say “Hey, hey” and wait for the response. Use as many hey’s as you want, each time waiting for their response. Add a silly word or saying if you like, or throw in a tongue twister that will make them laugh when they try to repeat it. Reward the group with a big smile, some applause, and an “All right, good going!” before continuing your presentation. You can expand the response with physical movement as well, such as having the participants stand when they respond. This will break up the monotony of sitting and will refresh their brains for the next portion of training.

That Little Extra

Don’t let your hands forget how to write! Try to incorporate writing into your daily routine in order to keep your hands flexible. If you find arthritis or cramping to be a problem when you write, invest in a sports or therapeutic glove designed to support your hand muscles.

   

June Writers' Forum Topic

Here’s your chance to tell us how your work environment operates. Send us your responses to the forum question below, and we’ll print the most interesting in our eTips Mid-Month Mini.

Which communication devices do you use most in your job? How do they improve your work, and what problems do you find inherent in the new world of electronic communication?

Email your response to writersforum@upwritepress.com. Write “June Writers’ Forum” in the subject line, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini.

Answers to This Month’s Quiz

  1. Because of the construction near the (building’s, buildings) front entrance, please use the back service door. Add an apostrophe-s to form the possessive of a singular noun.
  2. Three (ands, and’s) and two (buts, but’s) connected several thoughts into one rambling sentence. When a word is mentioned as a word in a sentence, add an apostrophe-s to form the plural.
  3. I don’t want to hear any (can’t’s, can’ts) about this project. When a word calls for two apostrophes, omit the second one.
  4. The project manager requested the entire (teams’, team’s) full effort. The sentence refers to one team, not several, so the possessive is formed by adding an apostrophe-s.
  5. Manny (Solis’, Solis’s) plan is the best solution to the problem. The possessive of a singular proper noun ending in s is formed by adding an apostrophe-s when the possessive is typically pronounced with an extra syllable.
  6. We took my car because (its, it’s) tank was full. This sentence calls for the possessive pronoun, which is spelled without an apostrophe. It’s is the contraction for it is.
  7. I added ten (dollars’, dollar’s) worth of gas to be sure I had enough. When referring to time or amount, consider the preceding adjective to determine whether the noun is singular or plural. If the noun is plural, the apostrophe is placed after the s (ten dollars’ worth). If the noun is singular, the apostrophe precedes the s (one dollar’s worth).

We Want to Hear from You!

This is your chance to be part of the UpWrite Press newsletters and blogs. What writing topics do you want to hear about? Have you any favorite communications tips you’d like to share? What words do you constantly mix up? Send us your ideas and you could see your name in Writing eTips or the Mid-Month Mini.

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Writing to an Intercultural Audience

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