How-To Guide: Using Pronouns Correctly and Other Editing Tips
It may seem like a no-brainer, but many of us in casual conversations occasionally misuse pronouns. In spoken language, those errors go by instantly and will not likely be remembered even if noticed. Not so with the written word. The following, from Ace Copyediting, is excerpted from their website, www.acecopyediting.com. Ace Copyediting is a for-profit editorial service that provides lots of free tips for writers and editors. We make no endorsement of the company, but do encourage you to explore the site.
30-SECOND WRITING CLINIC
LESSON: The use of pronoun cases.
Do you make any of these pronoun usage errors?
Wrong: Him and I are going to see Titanic tonight.
Wrong: Mary invited both he and I to her birthday party.
Wrong: Me and her are going to eat out tonight.
Wrong: Me and John and you should take Spanish lessons.
Wrong: Who's going to the party tomorrow? Myself and her.
Are you asking, "What's wrong with that?" From this moment on, you're going to know!
Correct: He (or she) and I are going to see Titanic tonight
Correct: Mary invited both him and me to her party.
Correct: She and I are going to eat out tonight.
Correct: You, John, and I should take Spanish lessons
Correct: Who's going to the party tomorrow? She and I.
RULE: Pronouns have three cases: nominative (I, you, he, she, it, they), possessive (my, your, his, her, their), and objective (me, him, her, him, us, them).
Use the nominative case when the pronoun is the subject of your sentence, and remember the rule of manners: always put the other person's name first!
HELPFUL HINT: Use this test. Leave out the other person's name in your sentence and then your own; you'll get a better idea of the correct pronoun form to use. "Me is going to see Titanic tonight." "Him is going to see Titanic tonight." Obviously, both examples are incorrect!
Practice several other examples, until you understand the rule.
Susan and he will be at the party. (Susan will be at the party. He will be at the party.)
Mary invited both him and me to the party. (Mary invited me to the party. Mary invited him to the party!)
Russ and she are the new managers. (Russ is a new manager. She is a new manager.)
He and she are co-anchors. (He is a co-anchor. She is a co-anchor.)
Wrong: Me and Henry will be late, as usual!
Correct: Henry and I will be late, as usual!
Would you say, "Me will be late, as usual!" or "I will be . . . ."?
LESSON: Agreement errors: singular subjects with plural pronouns. In most cases you should use a singular pronoun if your sentence has a singular subject. Sometimes, however, you do not know the preferred gender of the subject of your sentence or the subject identifies as neither male nor female. In those cases you might rework the sentence to eliminate the need for a singular pronoun or, if that is not possible or results in awkward or unclear writing, you can use they, them or their as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun.
In the past, writers used "his" as a generic pronoun to include both male and female. This is no longer acceptable.
Wrong: Every parent wants his child to succeed in school.
Correct: Parents want their children to succeed in school.
Correct: All parents want their children to succeed in school.
Wrong: Each employee will submit his choice for an HMO by Friday.
Correct: Employees will submit their choice for an HMO by Friday.
Wrong: Everyone has an opportunity to express his concern.
Correct: All of you have an opportunity to express concern.
Correct: Everyone has an opportunity to express concern.