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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Pronouns

I Subject, Your Honor

Posted on Tuesday, August 25, 2020, at 7:00 am

In past discussions of who-whom and whoever-whomever, we passed along a handy memory aid: who (and whoever) = they; whom (and whomever) = them.* That's fine as far as it goes, but it goes nowhere unless we can tell a subject (they) from an object (them). One reason that distinguishing between subjects and objects is …

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To Restrict or Not to Restrict: That Is the Question

Posted on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Who, that, or which; restrictive or nonrestrictive: Most of us have at some point had to grapple with interpretation, pronoun choice, and punctuation for a statement containing essential or nonessential information. For example, what would be succinct within the following statements? Jayla always orders the surf and turf that the master chef prepares for her. …

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Sweating the Small Stuff

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at 7:00 am

At a football game a few years ago, the University of Notre Dame sold soda in cups that said, "Figthing Irish." Did no one at this distinguished school have the time or pride to proofread a two-word slogan? Here are a few other items we've seen and now wish we hadn't … Back to Basics  …

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Pronoun Tips

Posted on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at 7:00 am

Pronouns take the place of nouns. Subject pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they Object pronouns: me, you, him, her, it, us, them Rule: Use a subject pronoun, not only as the subject of a sentence, but after to be verbs when the pronoun renames the subject. To be verbs: is, are, was, were, …

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Clearing the Air of Errors in English

Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, at 11:00 pm

The adage is true when it comes to our language: Old habits really are hard to break. Notwithstanding classroom instruction, lifelong reminders, correction from others, and even GrammarBook newsletters, certain misuses of English survive like drug-resistant viruses. Yet we grammarians and linguists march on. After all, even the Roman Empire had to give way—eventually. As …

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2019’s Word of the Year is Inclusive, Not Divisive

Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Have you heard that Merriam-Webster chose the word they as the "Word of the Year"? And that it was chosen as the "Word of the Decade" by the American Dialect Society? We are not surprised. You probably recall that we ran three articles in July-August 2019 discussing the singular they (How Did They Get in …

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Picking Proper Pronouns: Part II

Posted on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Last week we began our review of using pronouns that help guide rather than trip our written eloquence. We started with pronouns as clause subjects, for objects, before assertive or attributive expressions, and after than or as.  Today we’ll look at pronouns before a gerund, for an infinitive, and for complements of forms of the …

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Picking Proper Pronouns: Part I

Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Many of us have been there before: We're writing or speaking with confidence in our content. For a secret second, we might even feel, well, educated. Then, unbeknownst to us, improper pronouns leak in and sabotage the impression we were making. Worse yet, we may not know how or why our eloquence tripped. Using the …

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Singular They Part III

Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Thank you to the many readers who commented thoughtfully on both How Did They Get in Here? (July 3, 2019) and How Can They Be Singular? (July 31, 2019). Today we'll wind up our discussion of the singular they, including modern arguments for its use. When we ran this series in 2015, we received little …

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How Can They Be Singular?

Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at 11:00 pm

The title of our first article this month was How Did They Get In Here? That article looked at careless mismatches of the normally plural pronoun they with a singular antecedent. We suggested simple fixes. But there is more depth to this topic, and in today's article we'll explore the singular they a little further. In two weeks we'll wind up, at least …

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