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Business Grammar: Possessives Modifying Possessives

This statement contains a business grammar error. Find and correct it:
An independent research company polled hundreds of our customers, and the results are currently being calculated. We should receive the report by next Wednesday.

I have not yet seen any of the research company’s statistician’s data, but until I have opportunity to review this, we need to defer all pricing changes.

Correction:
An independent research company polled hundreds of our customers, and the results are currently being calculated. We should receive the report by next Wednesday.

I have not yet seen any of the research company’s statistician’s data, but until I have opportunity to review this, we need to defer all pricing changes.

Explanation:
This is an example of attaching a possessive form to another possessive form. Most style guides do not recommend this, including the definitive Gregg Reference Manual.

Solution:
Simply change the wording if possible to avoid the awkward construction:

Awkward: I have not yet seen any of the research company’s statistician’s data, but until I have opportunity to review this, we need to defer all pricing changes.

Better: I have not yet seen the data from the research company’s statistician, but until I have opportunity to review this, we need to defer all pricing changes.

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Mary Cullen

About the author

Mary Cullen

Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.

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