Pronouns -
There's No Substitute for Them

By Mamie Webb Hixon

Pronoun reference rules dispel all these miffs and myths about pronouns.

MYTH 1: If the reader or listener knows what you're referring to, then there's no problem.
That's the problem. How is a writer to know? How is a speaker to know?
     Example: If a student is absent, can he make it 
(What's it?)

MYTH 2: They could be anybody.
That's the problem: They could be anyone; it is without a definite antecedent.
At my school, they require students to 
     wear uniforms.
(Who is they?)

MYTH 3: A pronoun refers to the closest or closer antecedent.
"Closer antecedent" implies that there are two possible antecedents, a situation which creates ambiguity.
     Example: Marcy seldom writes to Marclyn when 
     she is away at college.
(Who is she? Which one is 
     away at college?)

MYTH 4: It's is a possessive pronoun.
is a contraction for it is. The singular possessive pronouns are her (feminine), his (masculine), and its (neuter):
     The woman had her day in court.
     The man had his day in court.
     The college had its day in court.

MYTH 5: Possessive pronouns, like possessive nouns, should be spelled with an apostrophe.
These possessive pronouns are not spelled with an apostrophe: ours, yours, his, hers, its, and theirs.

MYTH 6: A pronoun may substitute for a complete sentence or idea.
A pronoun is a pro noun - for a noun. Using a pronoun to substitute for a sentence or an idea may cause confusion and miscommunication.
     Example: I spilled ink on the bedspread, which  
     created a problem.
(What created the problem - the 
     bedspread or spilling ink on the bedspread?)
Be sure that each of your pronouns has an antecedent. You may not always be present to clear up the ambiguity.


Every man should help his wife with
_________________ housework.

Fill in the blank with a third-person pronoun.
474-2129 for the answer.



Alot Is Two Words
By Mamie Webb Hixon


     ALOT is two words! I repeat: ALOT is two words. Despite the overwhelming popularity of spelling this article-noun combination as one word, alot is still not recognized in dictionaries, in handbooks, or on computer spell checkers as one word. And despite the appearance of this non-word everywhere _ on business marquees, in newspapers, in business letters, in memorandums, and in high school and college students' papers _ alot is not a correct spelling.
     Think about it! If alot were one word, doesn't it stand to reason that the article a could be combined with almost any noun to yield other nonsense words such as alittle, abunch, afew; the list is inexhaustible. Perhaps, those who insist on spelling alot as one word are thinking about words such as apiece and anew, which are in fact spelled as one word. The only one-word alot is allot - spelled a l l o t.


What Is "Good English"?

     "Good English" is most likely to be familiar to the greatest number of people; it is the English used in textbooks, published documents, reputable magazines and newspapers, and academic and business writing. "Good English" is not only the yardstick by which the distance between what is said and what is meant is measured; it is also the template the communicator may use to improve the accuracy and the credibility of his renderings. Though there is no governing board of linguists or grammarians, or even a blueprint for writing or speaking, careful writers and speakers try to conform to the dicta of authorities: standard usage handouts with prescriptive rules of grammar, standard dictionaries with usage notes based on common practice and universal acceptance, and general conservative usage used by most educated people.



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The Write Advice
is a publication of the University 
of West Florida's Writing Laboratory.   

Publisher and Editor: Mamie Webb Hixon
Assistant Editors:  Sloane Cox, Jessica Marsh, Troy Urquhart
Typographer: Livvy Mullins
Online Conversion: Chris Bui


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