Friday, October 22, 2010

Grammar Goody #1: The Most Common Young Writer's Mistake

Believe it or not, this is the most common error I see made: pronoun usage.

I'll see a sentence like this:

Each student should be responsible for their words. [their is the pronoun]

In spoken English, this is quite common (not correct, but common). Unfortunately, it's also become common in students' writing as well--probably because it's so common in spoken English.

But it's still not right.

Here's how it must be: (there's really no wiggle room on this):

Each student should be responsible for his or her actions.

Now, I'll agree that seems awkward (because it is), so here's my suggestion. Instead of writing the "his or her" thing, rewrite the sentence to make the subject plural. That way your pronoun needs to be plural too.

So, our new sentence would be:

Students should be responsible for their actions.


Someday we may adopt "their" as the universal pronoun for both singular and plural--and that might not be a bad idea--but until then, watch your singular and plural pronouns.


Maxaokaine said...

Thank You for the Blog Post. I am getting ready to go Law school and my biggest fear now is my grammar. I hope using this blog will fix this my 10 year problem with grammar.

Laura Wittern said...

Great! Let me know if you have any specific questions, and I'll address them in future posts.