Q&A: Compound subjects

Q. Megan writes:

“I’m writing a cover letter for two job openings and I can’t decide which phrasing would be correct:

I believe my experience and education directly qualify me for two job openings posted on your Web site.

By OCAL, www.clker.com/profile-1068.html

or

I believe my experience and education directly qualifies me for two job openings posted on your Web site.

“The question is, does my experience and education directly ‘qualify’ me or ‘qualifies’ me?”

A. Megan said she was leaning toward qualify, and her instincts were right. The subject is plural (experience and education) and needs a plural verb.

I suggested she rethink a couple of other elements in the sentence, though.

First, directly doesn’t add anything, and I trip over it every time I read the sentence.

Second, believe isn’t really the best word in this case; think is.

This isn’t the place to go into great depth about believe, feel and think, but the three words aren’t interchangeable. Here’s a quick way to think about them:

You believe with your heart and soul; you think with your mind; you feel with your senses.

That aside, I’d be more forthright in the sentence Megan provided:

My experience and education fit the qualifications for the two job openings posted on your Web site.

That’s not a huge difference from the original, but it reads better and suggests more confidence.

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