March 19, 2014
by Ellen

Lose the Box: Read a Book

The phrase “thinking outside of the box” is a popular one in the business world. It is, apparently, a very desirable skill. But what does that mean, exactly?

Well, there’s a box — that would be the “known,” the existing, the predictable, the readily apparent. And then there’s “outside” the box — the “unknown,” the not so obvious, the world beyond the apparent, the realm of possibilities.

If you are competent in your chosen profession, you can identify and understand the contents of the box (and so can all of your colleagues). Few truly see that a) there is a box and b) there is something outside of it.

So how do you escape the box? Imagination. Creativity. Vision.

How do you cultivate these traits? Reading.

Reading exposes you to other worlds, other realities. You experience life from new perspectives and in new environments. You develop your capacity to empathize. You acquire vocabulary, internalize the elements of good writing, and expand your consciousness. And all of this cultivates your ability to climb out of the box and up the ladder.

Where should you start?  Right here. A few years back, I surveyed my professors and fellow Ph.D. students in the English department and compiled a list of the books that most influenced their love of reading. Pick one…or two…or three… Your brain (and career) will thank you! (FinalBookList)

For more on the career benefits of reading, take a look at John Coleman’s “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read” in the Harvard Business Review blog forum. He makes a compelling case for reading as the key to success in the business world:



March 7, 2014
by Ellen

Swallow Your Pride and Ask Questions

As a young professional trying to “prove” yourself in your first job, you may be tempted to follow your own judgment in situations where you’re not 100% sure you’re right.  You may be afraid to ask “stupid questions” for fear of looking incompetent. You may be pushing up against a deadline and forget to double-check the details or seek another opinion.

But here’s what you need to remember: In the real world, mistakes have real consequences. You may feel like an idiot for asking questions, but imagine how you’d feel if you exposed your firm to a malpractice claim. It’s better to ask questions and do it right the first time than to make a mistake and be corrected later. Mistakes undermine your credibility and make your supervisors hesitant to send work your way. Asking questions shows you take your tasks seriously and want to do the best job possible.

Also realize that no one expects you to know everything right off the bat. There is a learning curve in any profession – your boss didn’t start out knowing all the answers, either. When you don’t know the answer, the only way to find out is to ask the question.

For an example of the quagmire created by mistakes, check out this article on the professional ramifications of tax preparation mistakes in the Journal of Accountancy:





March 7, 2014
by Ellen

Spring Break!

Just a reminder that the LPDC will not be open next week (3/10-3/14). Why? It’s Spring Break!!!!

Put your books down and relax — you’ve earned it. Turn the alarm clock off, catch up on sleep, have a little fun, and come back ready to tackle the final weeks of the semester!

February 28, 2014
by Ellen

Subject/Verb Agreement: “none is” or “none are?”

S&W Rule 9: “The number of the subject determines the number of the verb” (p. 9).

Ok, you are probably thinking subject/verb agreement is a bit obvious, and you’re right…kind of….

For example, I doubt any of you would write, “He are going to the store.” (The correct verb is, obviously, is.)

But subject/verb agreement does get tricky. You have probably seen these mistakes more than once:

  • When there are several words between a singular subject and the verb, the verb is still singular.
    • Your hat – its color, shape, and size – is perfect for my grandfather.
  • When the verb is within the relative clause, “one of…,” the verb is plural.
    • One of the students who are scholarship recipients will introduce the guest speaker.
    • You really are one of those people who think they know everything.
  • When the verb follows “each,” “either,” “everyone,” “everybody,” “neither,” “nobody,”or “someone,” it is singular.
    • Each of the artists has the opportunity to display his/her work at the gala.
    • Either Bob or Susan has the key, but neither knows which door it opens.
    • Everybody controls his/her own destiny.
    • Everyone needs someone sometimes.
  • The special case of “none”:
    • When “none” is used to mean “not one” or “no one,” the verb is singular.
      • None of us is infallible.
        • In other words, no single person is infallible.
      • None of the dresses fits right.
        • In other words, not a single one fits.
      • None of the cars is affordable.
        • In other words, not one is affordable.
    • But when “none” is used to mean more than one thing or person, the verb is plural.
      • None are more obnoxious than those who believe they are perfect.
        • In other words, no people are more obnoxious as those who think they’re perfect.
  • A singular subject requires a singular verb, even when there are other nouns connected to it by “with,” “as well as,” “in addition to,” “except,” “together with,” and “no less than.”
    • The oatmeal as well as the raisin topping is inedible.
    • His class attendance in addition to the exams he missed makes passing the course impossible.
    • Her ultimate success together with her many failed attempts illustrates the importance of never giving up.

The tricky little rules governing subject/verb agreement are some of the most frequently misapplied. Now that you know them, you should start to notice mistakes everywhere. Better yet, look for mistakes – you’ll be surprised who you find making them!

February 23, 2014
by Angela

Additional Feedback Workshop

Jen will offer a make-up feedback workshop on Monday, March 3 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the LPDC (BH 339).  We hope this workshop won’t get snowed out!