Monthly Archives: August 2014

Words for Workers and Customers

We have many words that mean “worker.” They are similar, but we use them in different contexts and with different connotations.


Worker – a person who does work. This is a very general expression.

I am a general worker with ABC Industries. (I have a job with ABC Industries.)


Staff – a noncount noun for all of the workers at a business.

The staff at that restaurant are very friendly. (All of the workers at that restaurant are friendly.)

Colleague – a person who does the same job as you, but not necessarily at your company.

These are my colleagues. We are all lawyers, but we work at different companies.

Co-worker – a person who works at your company, but may do any job there.

This is my colleague Jane. She works in administration, but I work in sales.




Clients and customers are the same people. They are people who buy things at a company. Clients sounds more formal, and it also sounds like they spend more money.  Customers is more casual.


My accounting firm has three main clients: Starbucks Canada, Google, and Exxon.


There were a lot of customers who wanted coffee today.

In Your Mind

These nouns all relate to different kinds of thoughts. They are similar, but each one can be used in slightly different situations.

Knowledge – noncount – This is what you learn. Grammar, for example, or how to cook, or who is the most popular singer. “My friend has a lot of knowledge of soccer. She can tell you every championship winner since 1893!”

Memory – noncount – This is the biological ability to store or recall information. “I have a good memory. I know what shirt I was wearing on May 23rd, 1999.”

Memory/memories – count – these are countable thoughts about events you took part in. “I have many memories of playing with my grandparents when I was a child.” They are usually positive, but are not always positive. “My memory of school is unpleasant. I hated class!” They sound quite specific or detailed.

Experience/experiences – count – These are countable thoughts, like memories, but they could be longer in duration, or perhaps more difficult. “I had good experiences on my trip to Canada.” They can also be negative. “My trip to the South Pole was a bad experience. Too cold!” These tend to describe longer events in less detail than memories does.

Experience – noncount – The memory or knowledge of doing work at a job. “I have a lot of experience with Photoshop. I have used it for years.”

Wish/wishes – count – Something you hope can come true in the future, but you don’t expect it to come true. “I wish I could win the lottery.”

Dream/dreams – count – the pictures while you sleep OR something you hope can come true in the future. “My dream last night was crazy. I was a horse inside a train!” With the second definition: “My dream is to learn English, so I came to Canada and started studying.”


Who needs references?

References Available Upon Request

The new trend is to eliminate this sentence. Hiring managers nowadays assume that everyone has references, so you don’t need to include a sentence saying that you have them available on your resum√©. If you are applying at a very traditional company, though, you might want to use it. If so, put it at the bottom of the last page, center-justified.

Loose Loser Lost

Here are some commonly-misused words. They look quite similar, but they are not the same.

loose – adjective. The opposite of tight. “My pants are loose because I have lost weight.”

lose – verb. You lose something when you no longer know where it is, or when you can’t use a skill any more. “Don’t lose your lottery ticket! You will need it if you win.” OR “If I don’t practice my English, I will lose my skills.”

loser – noun. The person who loses. Note that it is an insult. “James is the winner, and everyone else is a loser.”

loss – noun. The amount of money that you spent in order to gain a lesser amount; the opposite of profit. “We received $100, but we spent $130. Our loss for this deal is $30.”

lost – adjective. Use this to describe something that you lose. “I can’t find my glasses; they are lost.”


Business Culture: Interviews

Some parts of Canadian business culture might seem a bit silly or strange to our foreign guests. In class, students often say that our emphasis on handshakes, formal interview clothing, or names are new to them.


Handshakes: Your gender doesn’t matter. Your social position doesn’t matter. In business, handshakes are a common way of greeting and showing respect. If you start them, you appear interested in getting to know the other person, or that you are polite. The easy way to remember: shake hands whenever you meet someone, when you make a deal or agreement, or just before you say goodbye.


Interview clothes: It’s better to look formal than it is to look casual. It’s better to look good than not good. Wearing formal clothes to an interview shows a prospective boss that you are serious about the interview, that you value the time, and that you understand Canadian business culture. You probably won’t wear a suit again for work, but as the saying goes,”Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” An easy rule: if you wear that clothing with your friends, it’s too casual for a job interview.


Names: Unless you hear otherwise, call people at your level or below by their first name. Anyone higher than you in the company is Mr. Familyname or Ms. Familyname. If they prefer something different, they will tell you. We don’t use titles related to work (“Engineer Smith,” “Teacher Dave”)in this fashion, unless you work for a professor (“Professor Hanson”) or a doctor “Dr. Hart-Ake.”) Please, never use titles with a first name. Mr. Dave doesn’t show respect; it sounds like you want to sell me something that I don’t want.