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: 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).

    Conclusion
    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

    Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement: Collective Noun Antecedents

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Use a singular pronoun in place of a collective noun that refers to a group as a unit. Use a plural pronoun when the collective noun refers to the individuals in the group.

    The committee reported that it will present its agenda to the board of directors at noon.
    (group as a unit)
    The committee must sign their names to the document before they leave.
    (group as individuals)

    (From Write for Business, 2nd ed., page 325)

    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)