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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    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.

    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.

    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: table

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    Even simple English words can have several different meanings, table being a perfect example.

    As a noun…
    a table might be

    • a piece of furniture with a flat surface supported by several legs or a pedestal, usually used for serving food or playing a game;
    • any flat or level geographical feature, including a plateau or the level below which water wholly saturates the ground (a water table);
    • an abbreviated list or an arrangement of related words or numbers in columns and rows, such as a table of contents in a book, a mathematical table displaying related data, or the periodic table of elements.

    As a verb…
    table is usually transitive, needing an object, and it has three separate meanings:

    • to postpone discussion or consideration, as in The committee will table that proposal until the research results are finalized.
    • to lay something on a table, as in Table your books so the staff can mop the floor.
    • to enter in a list or table, as in After Dr. Ian tables his data, we can compare our findings.

    As an adjective…
    table describes whatever may be placed on a table:

    • a table setting, for example, refers to a set of eating utensils for one person, and
    • a table cover refers to a cloth placed over a table.

    In idioms…
    table appears in the following phrases:

    • To turn the tables means "to cause a reversal that gains the advantage."
    • Under the table has two meanings, the first being a secret transaction, as in They made the offer under the table, and the second describing inebriation, as in He drank his competitor under the table.
    • On the table refers to an offer submitted for approval, as in Our proposal was on the table, awaiting the board's decision.

    The simple word table, for its versatility, enriches the English language. What other such words can you think of?

    —Joyce Becker Lee

    Photo by dalbera

    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.

    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

    One Word, Many Meanings: counter

    Tuesday, January 31, 2012

    In our increasingly interconnected world, English plays a dramatic role in business. Consequently, it pays to recognize that many English words can serve as different parts of speech, often with very different meanings. One such example is the word counter.

    As a noun…
    counter is commonly used in the following ways (among others):

    • a flat marker used in games
    • a long, level surface where transactions are conducted (e.g., a display counter) or where food and drink are prepared or served (as opposed to a table, which is generally lower and not as long)
    • a person or device that counts
    • a stiffener around or within the heel area of the upper part of a shoe

    As a verb…
    counter is typically used in one of the following ways:

    • to oppose (as in working against a current trend)
    • to defend or react (as in a debate or in the game of chess)

    As an adjective, adverb, or prefix…
    counter conveys negation, opposition, or reverse action, as in these examples:

    • The results were counter to expectations. (predicate adjective)
    • Jeeves acted counter to my express wishes. (adverb)
    • We added a counterbalance to even the scales. (prefix)

    In idioms…
    counter can be used to indicate the sale of nonprescription drugs (over-the-counter medications) or a secret, perhaps illegal transaction (payment under the counter).

    For both native English speakers and for those who use English as a second language, being aware that a single word can convey many meanings is helpful—especially as we strive for clear communication within a global business community.

    —Joyce Lee

    Photo by Thomas Bresson