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What is a noun for an action or thing that negatively influences another? For example,

If you don't keep up with your school assignments, all the bad grades you've accumulated will overwhelm you at the end of the year.

The economy has been a big ? for our organization.

One ? to the driver was that his tires were going flat.

Writing them an angry letter would be a big ? for our group.

I'm looking to replace the bold words and question marks. Inauspicious would work, but I need a noun.

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The economy has been a big minus for our organization. –  GEdgar Nov 7 '11 at 19:00
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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

"detriment" would work for the second and fourth examples, "The economy has been a big detriment ..." and "... would be a big detriment ...". I've never heard it used in the plural so I don't know that it would work in your second example. It vaguely doesn't sound right in the third example though I can't quite say why not.

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It sounds fine in the third example to me. –  Maxpm Nov 7 '11 at 17:41
    
+1. Detriment was the one I was thinking of. –  Brendon Nov 7 '11 at 17:44
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Liability could work. It simply means something disadvantageous, so I think that it would work well in some of your examples:

The economy has been a big liability to our organization.

Or:

Writing them an angry letter would be a big liability for our group.

But I don't think that this one sounds very nice, even though it might be correct:

One liability to the driver was that his tires were going flat.

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With minimal rewriting, you can use simply bad or the more hoity-toity prove disadvantageous or perhaps setback (or obstacle, delay, disadvantage) in your examples. In following, the first right arrow (→) sets off examples rewritten with bad or prove disadvantageous, and the second arrow sets off more-thorough rewrites.

Example: "The economy has been a big ? for our organization" → "The economy has been bad for our organization" or "The economy has proven disadvantageous for our organization"→ "The economy sandbagged our organization" or "The economy dealt our organization mortal wounds."

Example: "One ? to the driver was that his tires were going flat" → "A setback for the driver was that his tires were going flat" or "It was bad for the driver that his tires were flat" → "The driver's ontime record collapsed as his tires went flat."

Example: "Writing them an angry letter would be a big ? for our group" → "Writing them an angry letter would be a serious setback for our group" "Writing them an angry letter would prove disadvantageous for our group" → "Writing them an angry letter would provide our group tremendous spiritual comfort and no end of grief."

Comment: I suggest posting questions like yours in writers.stackexchange, suitably revised to ask about how best to phrase your examples. Trying to shoehorn a single word into these disparate slots is a mistake; your effort would be better spent rewriting the sentences in less-clumsy forms.

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+1, but suggestion: move the sentence about writers.SE to a comment and out of this answer. –  jprete Nov 7 '11 at 19:59
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@jprete I've moved that bit to end of answer, but not out; I think it's a reasonable part of answers to questions where rewording is as important as vocabulary. –  jwpat7 Nov 7 '11 at 20:26
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Impediment will work in your examples (the first one needs minor rewriting to use it). It means obstruction; hindrance; obstacle.

If you don't keep up with your school assignments, all the bad grades you've accumulated will be an impediment to you at the end of the year.

The economy has been a big impediment for our organization.

One impediment to the driver was that his tires were going flat.

Writing them an angry letter would be a big impediment for our group.

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