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4 Ways That Business Writing Courses Can Improve Your Grammar

Even the best writers -- the ones who make six figures writing for the most prestigious magazines and websites -Common_Grammar_Rules-resized-165- slip up with their grammar; though, fortunately for them, they have full-time editors who catch those rare mistakes.

But for the hard-working business employee who is juggling six different projects at once, sitting down for long hours of proofreading -- the kind of intense refining process that a professional writer undergoes -- is simply not practical.

But the hard truth is that in the business world impeccable writing skills is a must, whether you're writing marketing pitches, internal reports, or a proposal.

That's where business writing courses come in. Writing courses can improve your awareness of grammar, for example, to such a degree that your work does not require much proofreading. Before you know it, you become a grammar master who instantly knows the answers to common grammar conundrums -- like these four:

1. Affect vs. Effect

Possibly one of the most common errors in business writing (or any writing, for that matter) is the confusion over using "affect" or "effect."

Fortunately, the usage follows a simple rule. If you memorize it, this grammar pitfall will never trouble you again.

"Affect" is a verb. "Effect" is a noun.

Example: The presentation affected my understanding of sales.

However, if you try to phrase the sentence this way, "The presentation had an effect on my sales," you are no longer using the verb "affect." You've switched to the verb "had." The word "effect" is a noun because it is the thing that the presentation "had."

2. Sink, Sank, and Then I Sunk - Help!

This is another example of confusing verb tenses. In an email your colleague writes, "Our profits sunk last quarter, but that company's earnings also sunk."

With the verb "to sink," the present tense is "sink." The past tense is "sank," and the past participle is "sunk," which is always paired with the auxiliary verb "had." Your colleague is using the past participle instead of using the past tense.

The correct version: "Our profits sank last quarter, but that company's earnings also sank."

3. Should I Use "Shall" or "Will?"

This is a situational problem. If you are using "shall" in the third person -- i.e. he shall complete that report -- then it obliges the subject of the sentence to perform the verb. In other words, it is a command. It's like when your mother says, "You shall clean your room," in a very authoritative tone.

However, if you're using "shall" in the first person, there is no sense of obligation. It means simply that you intend to do that action sometime in the future: "I shall go to the cafeteria today."

When you use the word "will" in the first person -- I will complete this spreadsheet -- it expresses a sense of determination. It is meant to convey your strong desire to do whatever is necessary to complete the task.

But when you use "will" in the third person -- i.e. he will leave work early today -- it simply indicates that the person will do something in the future.

4. I "Sit," But She "Set"

An easy way to remember when to use "sit" or "set" is to ask this question, "Is someone placing an object somewhere?" If the answer is yes, you use "set."

For example, someone wants to bring some indoor plants into the office. They ask you where to put them. You would use the transitive verb "set" which always requires a direct object: "Set them on the window sill."

If there is no direct object involved -- if no one is placing anything anywhere and you're just talking about people being in a location -- you would use "sit": "He sits at the conference table." This also applies to nouns that are not being moved by anyone -- i.e. The computer sits on the table. But if Bob comes over and moves the computer to the table, you would say, "Bob set the computer on the table."

All of our business writing courses include instructor review of your individual grammar issues, resources, and correction strategies. Improve your grammar so that you spend less time proofreading and more time working.

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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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