Writing Glitch #331

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

glitch20

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.”

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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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