Author Archives: bizcombuzz

Making the Right Match: Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement Exercise

Instructors: Download this exercise and the solutions at the end of this post.


When a pronoun is used to refer to a noun, the noun is called an antecedent. Pronouns agree with antecedents when both are singular or plural.

Singular:           The student turned in her paper.                                                                                                   Student, a singular antecedent, agrees with her, a singular pronoun.

Plural:              The students turned in their papers.                                                                        Students, a plural antecedent, agrees with their, a plural pronoun.

To match antecedents to nouns, first determine which antecedent a pronoun refers to. Then make sure both pronoun and antecedent are singular or plural. In the case of collective nouns such as jury,class, or audience,consider the noun singular as long as the group acts as a unit.

Because today’s usage prefers gender-agnostic writing, good writers avoid using hewhen the antecedent could be either male or female. Likewise, using he/sheas a singular pronoun is frowned upon because it’s a clunky construction. Sentences with faulty pronoun-antecedent agreement are best corrected by changing a singular antecedent to a plural. This means that in some cases, sentences work better when they are rewritten to avoid agreement problems.

Instructions: Underline the pronouns and their antecedents. Then rewrite the sentence so pronoun and antecedent agree. If the sentence is correct, mark a “C” next to it.

  1. If someone smokes, they are at risk for contracting lung cancer.
  2. Every dog owner likes to think their dog is the smartest.
  3. The jury reached their decision after deliberating only one hour.
  4. Whenever a professor gives a lecture, he should prepare ahead of time.
  5. Gardeners frequently use their own trucks.
  6. A contractor who never arrives on time leaves their clients unhappy.
  7. When someone is looking for an apartment to rent, they should check
  8. Each cast member in the play knew their lines by heart.
  9. No one knows when they will die.
  10. Each of my parents has their own checking account.
  11. Many coffee shops often sell pastries to its customers.
  12. A homeowner has to pay his taxes on time or face severe penalties.
  13. A parent likes to make sure his or her child is safe even when the child has become an adult.
  14. The audience showed their appreciation for the play with a standing ovation.
  15. Anyone who gets an “A” in the class should share their study techniques.





AI Is Here, Like it or Not

New technology has always made workers nervous about being displaced, and those in blue collar jobs have traditionally taken the biggest hit. However, recent innovations have made it clear that white collar workers—people who work in offices—will be the next wave of workers to be supplanted by artificial intelligence.

The reaction to this reality is divided into two camps. Some who study artificial intelligence believe it will add great value to humankind by providing a utopian grab bag of life-enhancing functions, from curing diseases to fixing climate change. Others warn that AI is a potential risk to our very existence, with robots overtaking human intelligence, and consequently, our ability to control them.

But the author of AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order thinks both schools of thought are off base. Kai-Fu Lee, in an essay published by the Wall Street Journal, writes that AI technology can enable societies to actually better care for humans.

The reason is straightforward. Although AI is predicted to take over many tasks, from driving a car to diagnosing illnesses or providing customer service, an automaton will never possess human empathy or social skills: A robot or an algorithm is incapable of caring for an infant or the elderly, Lee says. Nor can AI think creatively or make goals.

Jobs that require repetition and no human interaction like an insurance adjuster or fast food preparer will very likely cease to exist, Lee writes. Then there’s a middle ground, where AI will assist rather than take over. Doctors may have help from AI to diagnose, for example, and bartenders may not actually pour drinks but will interact with customers. However, AI will never replace a CEO or a social worker, an attorney or a hair stylist.

Still, Lee warns that the upheavals that AI will likely trigger may create deep chasms in society, requiring leaders to devise new ways to sustain humanity.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the potential upheavals society may face as AI replaces more and more jobs?
  2. Beyond those mentioned above, which jobs will remain safe from being taken over by artificial intelligence?
  3. Which skills will help workers survive the inevitable impact of AI on the job market?





Spreading Information Literacy: Our Most Basic Job

At the most fundamental level, college instructors teach students to find answers. We may lecture, assign, and grade, but those tasks support the ultimate goal of instilling in our students the ability to think critically about what they hear and read. There’s no denying that this task has become much more difficult in the age of disinformation and fake news, and it behooves us to take another look at how we teach information literacy.

Although the critical assessment of information has always been a part of education, recently academics have been researching the proliferation of inaccurate information online. Unexpectedly, they have found that people who read fake newsare also avid “real” news readers.

However, the problem arises when a portion of readers actually believe the false news despite being contradicted by facts or scientific evidence. Studies also show that the more people read inaccuracies, the more likely they are to repeat and believe these falsehoods, which is why researchers are also looking into methods to stop their spread. But until they discover a remedy, the misinformation will continue. The need for knowing how to discern false from real has become ever more critical.

This is where information literacy–the ability to assess the need for information and to “identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use” it–comes in. Identifying involves determining the question to be answered and the extent of the information required to do so. Locating information sources requires the skill to conduct research and knowing how each source of information is produced and distributed. Evaluating information and sources means critically examining their reliability, validity, authority, and bias. The final outcome is using the information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.

The business communication classroom can be the perfect forum in which to teach these important skills. Below are some activities instructors can initiate to help students become better prepared to assess the onslaught of information they face daily.

  1. Team up with librarians. Many campus librarians are also great teachers, and setting up one or two sessions with a knowledgeable librarian can familiarize students with campus resources and thereby kickstart the process of learning to critically evaluate what they read and hear.
  2. Focus on information rather than sources. Assignments typically call for students to assess the reliability of sources, but they must also be able to evaluate the truthfulness of claims, and to do that, they must examine sources other than the original. Called “lateral reading,” such cross-checking is similar to what journalists do before reporting spurious claims.
  3. Teach fact checking. Between library databases, reputable fact-checking websites, and Google Scholar, students have access to a wealth of information that can help them prove a fact. Likewise, a fact that has already been verified as false will appear with a simple search. Students should also know how to follow a trail to find the original source of a fact by examining the path of citations.
  4. Emphasize the interpretation of information. To really teach information literacy, instructors must discuss humans’ culpability in the interpretation of information, including confirmation bias and selective attention. This can be accomplished through cognitive strengthening exercises that help students understand their own blind spots.

Ultimately, today’s landscape calls for information literacy that goes beyond assessing sources. For our students to leave our classrooms as better educated citizens, they must understand how and why falsehoods thrive and how their own thoughts and ideology influence their interpretations of what is true and what is not. It’s a tall order.