Writing Glitch #331

You want another “glitch” today, don’t you? Of course you do — the last one was too easy.


You know that rule about not using an apostrophe to make the possessive form of a pronoun? Well, it doesn’t apply to one. One isn’t a pronoun; it’s a common noun. If you want to indicate that something belongs to one, write one’s.

Not that it actually matters for this example. Here’s the thing about using one as a pronoun: even though it’s technically third person, it’s a substitute for the first-person pronoun I (when one wishes to be stuffy and formal), so it is not interchangeable with the third-person pronoun they.

The second sentence is compound (you could break it up into two shorter sentences: Bad choices make people more beautiful. Good ones leave them more ugly.), so it requires a comma before the conjunction and.

I am using they as a third-person singular pronoun here. I know some people don’t approve of that, but until/unless English gets some other gender-neutral, third-person singular pronoun for referring to people, they will have to serve.

“We live in a world where an individual’s moral choices are reflected in their appearance. Bad choices make people more beautiful, and good ones make them more ugly. This leaves people quite conflicted.”


About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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