Excellence in business English

This is the first in a series of blogs on how to express yourself with excellence in business English – that is, succinctly, accurately and with impact. We will cover basic and advanced topics that include verb tenses, common grammar errors, vocabulary words that convey sophistication and savoir faire; clarification of misconstrued words such as insure, ensure and assure; Latin and French phrases that have become part of our everyday lives, and other topics that will help you differentiate yourself from your peers. This is dress for success, in words.

First up, let’s clarify a few that are unclear to many people.

Affect & effect
Affect is almost always used as a verb – to influence or have an effect on, to produce a change in something or someone. “His study was intended to show how alcohol affects reaction time.” “The bright light affects our eyes” “His death affected us deeply.”

  • Do not try to use “affect” as a noun. It’s almost entirely reserved for psychological jargon.

Effect is almost always a noun.  (Common use)

  • Something brought about; a result. Example: They discussed the effect of the law on children.
  • The way one thing acts upon another. Example: The effect of the law has been to increase the use of alcohol.

“Effect” is rarely used as a verb, and is beyond the scope of our study,

 Among & between
Among is used to show a relationship involving more than two persons or things. “There was widespread disagreement among the students.

  1. Used to show a relationship involving two persons or things.
    – I sit between David and Mary. What’s the difference between this book and the other novels?
  2. To compare more than two things in a group if each is considered individually.
    – I can’t decide between the latte, cappuccino, or green tea.

 Amount & number
Amount is used when referring to things in bulk. “The police officer had a huge amount of paperwork.”
Number is used when referring to individual, countable units. “The police officer had a number of forms to complete.”

Assure, ensure, insure

Assure – to give confidence that something will happen. “I assure you, we will deliver on time.”

Ensure – to make sure that something will happen. “I will ensure that the clown arrives at your party one hour in advance.”

Insure – to protect against loss by buying insurance.

 Adapt & adopt

Adapt means “to accommodate” or “to adjust to conditions”. We had a hard time adapting to the tropical climate here.

Adopt means “to accept” or “to use as one’s own.” It would help if you can adopt a more positive outlook. We shall adopt the HR policies of the London office.

Written by

George Kane
Senior Trainer English Express