Tag Archives: pronouns

Who Is She?

I’ve often said that it’s the simple words that get officers into trouble when they write reports. Today we’re going to look at she and her. Easy words, right?

Wrong. There’s a problem called indefinite pronoun reference that often creates confusion.

Here’s a typical mistake. Can you figure out what’s wrong?

Martha said she had not been in touch with her daughter in quite a while because her telephone wasn’t working. INCORRECT

Whose telephone wasn’t working? When there are two women in a sentence, she becomes a confusing (or indefinite) word.

Be specific about identities when you’re using pronouns (he, she, him, her, they). Here’s a more clear version of the same sentence:

Martha said she had not been in touch with her daughter in quite a while because her daughter’s telephone wasn’t working. CORRECT

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Practice with Its and It’s

Today we’re going to review the proper use of two words that are often confused: its and it’s.

The easiest way to learn the difference is to think about a familiar word you use every day: his.

You don’t use an apostrophe in his (do you?). Yet you know instantly that his is a possessive word.

Its (without an apostrophe) works exactly the same way:

George took his uniform to be cleaned yesterday. CORRECT

The department is redesigning its uniform. CORRECT

So here’s a guideline for you: Any time you’re wondering whether to put that apostrophe into it’s/its, think about his. If you can substitute his in the sentence, its (no apostrophe) is correct.

(It’s means it is. And its with an apostrophe at the end is ALWAYS wrong: its’.)

The department is redesigning his uniform. CORRECT

We’re redesigning our curriculum so that it’s consistent with state law. CORRECT

Here are four practice sentences. Scroll down for the answers.

1. I like this book, but some of (it’s, its) information is outdated.

2.  Although (it’s, its) obvious that the procedure needs to be changed, we need to retain (it’s, its) best features.

3.  The force doubled (it’s, its) size over the last 30 years, and (it’s, its) still increasing.

4.  Because (it’s, its) air conditioner is broken, that patrol car is like a steam bath when (it’s, its) very hot outside.

ANSWERS

1. I like this book, but some of  its information is outdated. (like his information)

2.  Although it’s obvious that the procedure needs to be changed, we need to retain its best features.  (like it is obvious and his best features)

3.  The force doubled its size over the last 30 years, and it’s still increasing.  (like his size and it is still increasing)

4.  Because its air conditioner is broken, that patrol car is like a steam bath when it’s very hot outside.  (like his air conditioner and it is very hot)

 

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Practice with Its and It’s

Today we’re going to review the proper use of two words that are often confused: its and it’s.

The easiest way to learn the difference is to think about a familiar word you use every day: his.

You don’t use an apostrophe in his (do you?). Yet you know instantly that his is a possessive word.

Its (without an apostrophe) works exactly the same way:

George took his uniform to be cleaned yesterday. CORRECT

The department is redesigning its uniform. CORRECT

So here’s a guideline for you: Any time you’re wondering whether to put that apostrophe into it’s/its, think about his. If you can substitute his in the sentence, its (no apostrophe) is correct.

(It’s means it is. And its with an apostrophe at the end is ALWAYS wrong: its’.)

The department is redesigning his uniform. CORRECT

We’re redesigning our curriculum so that it’s consistent with state law. CORRECT

Here are four practice sentences. Scroll down for the answers.

1. I like this book, but some of (it’s, its) information is outdated.

2.  Although (it’s, its) obvious that the procedure needs to be changed, we need to retain (it’s, its) best features.

3.  The force doubled (it’s, its) size over the last 30 years, and (it’s, its) still increasing.

4.  Because (it’s, its) air conditioner is broken, that patrol car is like a steam bath when (it’s, its) very hot outside.

ANSWERS

1. I like this book, but some of  its information is outdated. (like his information)

2.  Although it’s obvious that the procedure needs to be changed, we need to retain its best features.  (like it is obvious and his best features)

3.  The force doubled its size over the last 30 years, and it’s still increasing.  (like his size and it is still increasing)

4.  Because its air conditioner is broken, that patrol car is like a steam bath when it’s very hot outside.  (like his air conditioner and it is very hot)

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Right or Wrong?

Like all professionals, officers want to speak and write well. Most officers go over their reports several times to make sure everything is grammatical and correct.

Here’s a problem, though: Sometimes right sounds wrong. Today we’re going to look at three usage points that sound wrong to people who don’t have a solid background in English usage.

1.  That uniform looks good on you.   CORRECT

The man (or woman) on the street might mistakenly say “looks well.” Nope! “Looks good” is correct. Technically speaking, looks is a copulative verb that requires an adjective. No need to dig into all that grammar, though: Just remember that “looks good” is correct.

2.  Major Hanley asked Carol and me to lead the meeting.  CORRECT

Many people, thinking that “I” is more elegant than “me,” incorrectly say “Carol and I” in this sentence. Wrong again. Here’s how you figure this one out:

Major Hanley asked me to lead the meeting.

Major Hanley asked Carol and me to lead the meeting.

For comparison, here’s a sentence in which I is correct:

Yesterday I led the meeting.

Yesterday Carol and I led the meeting.

To learn more, click here and read about Pronoun Rule 3. You can also watch a short video here.

(By the way, you also need to avoid the hideous “to he” construction beloved of sports announcers: Ovechkin passed the puck to he. NO! It’s to him.)

3.  Fifteen minutes is usually enough time to get across town.  CORRECT

You’ll often hear “fifteen minutes are”–a common error. Fifteen minutes is a unit, not fifteen separate things: Use is, not are. On the other hand, you would say “Fifteen laptops are on order” because laptops are separate things. To learn more, click here and read about Rule 2.

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Pronouns Quiz

All of us use pronouns constantly (little words like I, me, he, her, she, him, and so on). They’re so common that we may think they’re unimportant. The fact is, though, that the way you use pronouns in your reports can signal to readers and listeners that you really are (or aren’t) a professional.

Try this pronouns quiz to see whether you’re really using pronouns correctly. Scroll down for the answers. To review the rules for using pronouns, click here.

1.  The sergeant asked Officer Jones and (I, me) to meet with the mayor tomorrow.

2.  Officer Jones knows the mayor better than (I, me).

3.  Each of the inmates is supposed to get (his, their) health screening this month.

4.  The department is revising (its, it’s) domestic violence practices.

5.  These statistics are important to (he, him), so please go over them carefully.

ANSWERS  (Numbers refer to the rules on Pronouns Made Simple: Click here.

1.  The sergeant asked Officer Jones and me to meet with the mayor tomorrow.  (Rule 3. Think “The sergeant asked me.” You wouldn’t say “The sergeant asked I,” would you?)

2.  Officer Jones knows the mayor better than I. (Rule 4. Think “better than I do.”)

3.  Each of the inmates is supposed to get his health screening this month.  (Rule 1. “Each” is singular, so you need his.)

4.  The department is revising its domestic violence practices.  (Rule 2. “Its” is possessive, like his. “It’s” means it is and won’t work in this sentence.)

5.  These statistics are important to him, so please go over them carefully.  (Common sense!)

How did you do?


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I or me?

If you visit this website often, you know that one of my cardinal rules is “Watch out for the everyday words!” I, me, although, because, and, but….Those words and others like them get many writers in trouble.

Today’s topic is using pronouns in comparisons: I, me, she, her, he, him, we, us, they, them. You’ll notice that they’re in pairs, and that’s where the danger lies. When is it I, and when is it me? When do you use she, and when do you use her? And so on.

We’re going to look at using these pronouns in comparisons. (If you’re studying your pronoun rules–and I hope you are!–this is Pronoun Rule 4.)

What you do is add an extra word after than or as or whatever comparison word you’re using. You can either write out the word or leave it out. (I leave it in because it sounds better to me this way.) What you must do, though, is say that word in your head.

Here’s what I’m talking about. (It’s easy!)

Joe speaks Spanish better than (I, me).

THINK: Joe speaks Spanish better than I [do].

Joe speaks Spanish better than I. OR Joe speaks Spanish better than I do.  CORRECT

Carole has been with the agency almost as long as (he, him).

THINK:  Carole has been with the agency almost as long as he [has].

Carole has been with the agency almost as long as he. OR  Carole has been with the agency almost as long as he has. CORRECT

With practice and concentration, you’ll soon be doing these pronouns as well as (I, me).

With practice and concentration, you’ll soon be doing these pronouns as well as I [do].

With practice and concentration, you’ll soon be doing these pronouns as well as I.  CORRECT

One more thing: In comparisons, be sure to use than, not then.

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Using Indefinite Pronouns in Police Reports

I’ve often said that the words most likely to cause problems for writers are the little everyday ones. Today we’re going to examine some issues with pronouns like it, this, that, these, and those (often called “indefinite pronouns”).

Chances are you rarely give these words a second thought–most of us don’t. Professional writers think about them all the time, however. And since you’re an officer and, as a result, a professional writer (or aiming to become one), it’s worth spending a few moments looking closely at these words.

Here’s a paragraph containing several sentences a professional writer wouldn’t write. See if you can figure out what’s wrong.

Davis told me about his argument with Carol. She came home late from work and said her boss had given her a last-minute job to do. It did not make sense to him, and he accused her of lying. She refused to talk any further and left the room. That enraged him, and he grabbed a lamp and threw it against the wall.

The problem words are “it” and “that.” These are fine words that good writers use all the time…but carefully and thoughtfully.

Let’s look at it first:

She came home late from work and said her boss had given her a last-minute job to do. It did not make sense to him, and he accused her of lying.

“It” didn’t make sense to him. What was “it”? Was it coming home late or saying her boss had given her a last-minute job to do?

Here’s a more precise version:

She came home late from work and said her boss had given her a last-minute job to do. Her explanation did not make sense to him, and he accused her of lying. BETTER

Now let’s look at that:

She refused to talk any further and left the room. That enraged him, and he grabbed a lamp and threw it against the wall.

What enraged him–her refusal to talk, or seeing her leave the room?

Here’s a better version:

She refused to talk any further and left the room. Her silence enraged him, and he grabbed a lamp and threw it against the wall. BETTER

Incidentally, the technical name for this problem is indefinite pronoun reference. But there’s no need to remember that terminology as long as you resolve to be precise with pronouns. (Hmmm…precise with pronouns. There’s a nice ring to it…or, more precisely, that phrase has a nice ring to it!)

 

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