300 Days of Better Writing

June 20, 2014

Use subject pronouns in comparisons with implied verbs.


This is easier to demonstrate than explain in technical terms. Consider this sentence:

“I am taller than she/her.”

Which pronoun do you use, “she” or “her”? I often hear people use “her” in cases like this, but this is incorrect. This sentence implies the final verb is, as in “I am taller than she is.” Since the pronoun in question is serving as the subject to the implied verb is, you need a subject pronoun: “she.”

Here are two more examples.

“That man is smarter than I.” [“That man is smarter than I am.”]

“Who knows better than he?” [“Who knows better than he knows?”]


This is the strategy for day 177 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

June 2, 2014

Use object pronouns as objects, not subject pronouns.


When you need a pronoun for an object, use an object pronoun. Your choices are me, you, him, her, it, us, them, and whom.

Applying this tip is pretty simple, but many people make mistakes when the object contains two or more things. They may use a subject pronoun instead: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, and who. These subject pronouns cannot be used as objects, except for you and it, which are both types of pronouns.

Consider this sentence.

“Mary drove Tom and I to the house.”

This sentence is incorrect. “I” is not an object pronoun; it is a subject pronoun. The correct pronoun is me. The sentence should read as follows.

“Mary drove Tom and me to the house.”

Because most people won’t make this mistake when the sentence only has one object pronoun, you can use this trick: remove one object, say the sentence aloud, and determine if it still sounds right. Then do it with the other one.

For example, you would say “Mary drove Tom to the house. Mary drove I to the house.” The first one sounds right, but the second doesn’t. You would say “Mary drove me,” so you know the complete sentence should be “Mary drove Tom and me to the house.”


This is the strategy for day 56 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

August 28, 2012

Use his and her to avoid subject-pronoun number errors.


Consider this sentence:

“Each person must write their own autobiography.”

Do you see the problem here? “Each” refers to one person, but “their” refers to more than one person.

Some writers intentionally make this common mistake to avoid the correct his (which sounds sexist) or the cumbersome his and her. Most make this mistake unconsciously. Consider this incorrect sentence:

“Any professional writer will edit their own documents.”

This has the same problem as the first example. If the subject is singular, our preference is to use his and her or its similar expressions: he and she, his and hers, him and her, etc.

While these phrases are correct, they can make sentences sound redundant. Consider this sentence.

“Each team member took his or her uniform to his or her mother to clean for him or her.”

The better option is to find the antecedent for the pronoun and make it plural. In this way, we revise the previous example as,

“The team members took their uniforms to their mothers to clean for them.”

If the antecedent of the pronoun needs to remain singular, use the correct version of his or her.


This is the strategy for day 23 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

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