How Not to Teach Pronouns

On a website for writers, I just read an article that clears up some confusing points about punctuation:  Lame Duck Punctuation. I have a feeling I’m going to be cranky all day.

Two things bother me about the article. First, the title isn’t helpful. The writer’s point is that punctuation errors make you as ineffectual as a lame duck. Good point – but many people (I’m one) instantly associate “lame duck” with politics, not punctuation. Why confuse your readers right off the bat?

The second irritation is the way she explains pronouns like hers, yours, theirs, ours, its. She wants you to remember that they belong to a group called pronomial pronouns that don’t get apostrophes. Ever.

She’s right, of course. But sheesh – why make it sound so complicated? I have a Ph.D. in English, I’ve been using those pronouns correctly for longer than many of you have been alive, and I can’t remember ever seeing the word pronomial before.

Here’s a much simpler way to learn how to use these pronouns (and there’s a bonus – you’ll have a memory device in case you’re confused some day years from now about whether there’s an apostrophe in ours or a similar word):

Think about the word his. No apostrophe, right?

All those pronouns work the same way. No apostrophe.

That book is hers, not his.

The dog buried its bone.

Ours is the blue Subaru.

To learn more about possessive pronouns (to tell you the truth, I don’t much like the word “possessive” either!), click here.

lame duck


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