Every expert writer needs an equally expert editor. Why? Because studies have shown that over time, our brains will begin to read a piece of text the way we want to read it. As writers, we become intimately involved with the words we have produced. We develop such an intense relationship with our content that we oftentimes overlook mistakes – like ensuring subject-verb agreement among the copy used in the speaker’s script and on the slides. Applying correct subject-verb agreement establishes the credibility of a presenter and demonstrates care for presentation content. Let’s review the standard subject-verb agreement guidelines, highlight a few situations you might run into, and reveal the impact following the grammar rule will have on your deck.

The Basic Rule

With subject-verb agreement, opposites do not usually attract. A singular subject prefers to be paired with a singular verb, while a plural subject wants to be included with a plural verb. In the following examples, the subject and verb of the sentence are italicized.

INCORRECT:

The current projections for our future earnings is trending positively.

CORRECT:

The current projections for our future earnings are trending positively.

As long as you use the “opposites don’t attract” rule when thinking about subject-verb agreement, you will likely minimize the grammar issues on your slides. But, there are a few situations that could throw you through a loop.

Common Tricky Scenarios

If you are having trouble with a phrase you have included in your speaking script or as part of the copy on a slide, ask yourself the following questions to determine the scenario at hand.

1. Is the subject separated from the verb?

Oftentimes, presenters may use prepositional phrases or relative clauses in their speech or slide content. Doing so can create an instance where the subject of a sentence gets separated from the verb – possibly by a plural.

INCORRECT:

Each of the departments owns a part of the project.

CORRECT:

Each of the departments own a part of the project.

2. Is the subject an indefinite pronoun?

As a presenter, you are more likely to talk about indefinite pronouns in your speeches. For example, you may sell a proprietary product called Bangor Bottles. Let’s say you include the following sentence describing Bangor Bottles in a speaking script:

Only some of our Bangor Bottles were damaged in the manufacturing plant accident.

In the sentence above, Bangor Bottles is a countable noun, therefore, you would use the plural. If you are handling an uncountable noun, you would use the singular.

3. Are collective nouns serving as subjects?

Collective nouns involve a group of individual elements. Generally, this type of countable noun will incorporate a singular verb. The only exception to this rule is if the noun becomes plural. You’ll most likely run into a collective noun issue when integrating countable nouns of amount or measurement. Review sample usage below:

A one-time installment of $500 is enough to benefit from our basic services.

The majority of the time, a collective noun will take a singular verb.

For more information about the outlined rules, as well as a few others you may need to know, check out a few of LinguisTech’s tips and tricks.

Impact on Your Presentations

Using the correct subject-verb agreement helps a presenter sound more confident in his or her content and creates mistake-free slides for viewers. Take a look at the following example slides. The top slide contains incorrect subject-verb agreement, while the bottom slide displays correct subject-verb agreement.

 

Although it may seem like a small change, it could be a huge error in the eyes of many presentation attendees. By checking the accuracy of your subject-verb agreement, you eliminate a factor that could turn a potential customer, client, or investor away from your product, service, or concept.

More from the Ethos3 blog:

When to Stand By Your Content: The Colbert-FCC Controversy

The Psychology of Metaphors in Presentations

Using Intertextuality in Presentations

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