Re: pronouns and portfolios--bringing it back tech writing

Subject: Re: pronouns and portfolios--bringing it back tech writing
From: Bonnie Granat <bgranat -at- att -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2001 10:00:08 -0400

Brian Hoskins wrote:
> Bonnie wrote
> <<It's not the singular verb that I think
> people here are talking about. It's the
> pronoun agreeing in number with its
> antecedent.>>

In my comments I specifically exempted
creative writing, Brian. Certainly the
singular "they" is used in informal
conversation, but it is not standard
written English, except for in creative

But as an illustration, I'll comment on
each of your examples.

> I trust you are happy to correct the following sentences:
> "And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame,
> They wol come up..."
> (Chaucer - The Pardoner's Prolong. c1395)

"Whoso" is singular and plural. So is
"whosoever". "All" can be singular or

> "There's not a man I meet but doth salute me
> As if I were their well-acquainted friend"
> (Shakespeare - Comedy of Errors. 1593)

Exempted from the rule because it is
creative writing (and informal speech).

> "'Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
> Since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear
> The speech."
> (Shakespeare - Hamlet. 1601)

"Some" can be singular or plural, but
creative writing is exempt, anyway.

> "No man goes to battle to be killed. - But they do get killed."
> (George Bernard Shaw - Three Plays for Puritans. 1901)
> ".....every man went to their lodging."
> (Lord Berners translation of Froissart's Chronicles. 1523)

These two are exempt, it would appear,
except perhaps the last is not creative
writing (I don't know the work).

If usage like the last example were the
standard in English, we would not be
having this discussion.

> I thank Webster's Dictionary of English Usage from which I derived these
> excellent quotes.
> The use of "They/their/them" to refer to a singular object has been common
> in English for 600 or more years. The grammatical derision of this usage is
> only 200 years old. We lost "Thou/thee/ye" for social reasons and we are
> likely to loose "he/she" for the same reasons.

Again, I submit that it would not be an
issue for us now if the singular "they"
was a recognized and authoritatively
approved element in standard English. It
simply is not a part of standard
English, regardless of how many examples
you proffer. In fact, as my comments
indicate, most of your examples do not
support your argument.

> And so we introduce "then".
> <<Happily, I've converted my colleagues on
> this issue and on the issue of not using
> "then" as anything but what it is -- an
> adverb.>>
> << "Enter a name and an address, then click OK." >>
> While I agree that it is incorrect to use "then" as a conjunction which your
> example implies to be the problem, don't forget that it is used as both an
> adjective and a noun.
> "...Reagan, the then Governor of California..."
> (Jess Nierenberg - Maledicta. 1983)

Yes, I agree. I should not have said it
was only an adverb.
> "Goodbye, until then" or "Then and there".




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