Monday: Pronoun

Grammar Tidbit

We all know what a noun is, right? Person, place, thing or idea. How about a pronoun? A word that takes the place of a noun. These are usually the first questions posed us in a grammar course, and people seem very comfortable with the definitions. When it comes to execution, though, there’s still a problem. People seem to be terrified to punctuate a plural possessive (s’) but are only too eager to add an apostrophe to words that don’t call for it.

I used to get very depressed by this…you know, very “Where’s my tanto,” but not anymore! Now I unsheathe my wakizashi and kill the offending error with Neeson-level stoicism. (I’m short, so a katana would be very unwieldy. Ha! See that? Samurai joke.)

Today, we’re going to talk about possessive pronouns. Here’s the rule:

Don’t use an apostrophe.

The thing is, a lot of pronouns are already built to be possessive. For him and her, or he and she, we have his and hers. No apostrophe!


Their dog is white.

Where would you even put an apostrophe there?

If you have questions, please post below!

Monday: Semicolon

Grammar Tidbit

Only the semicolon comes close to the comma’s record of misuse and abuse; in fact, the semicolon is often what the misused comma should have been. According to Purdue OWL, semicolons are necessary in three instances:

1. To join 2 independent clauses when the second clause restates the first or when the two clauses are of equal emphasis.

  • Road construction in Dallas has hindered travel around town; streets have become covered with bulldozers, trucks, and cones.

2. To join 2 independent clauses when the second clause begins with a conjunctive adverb (however, therefore, moreover, furthermore, thus, meanwhile, nonetheless, otherwise) or a transition (in fact, for example, that is, for instance, in addition, in other words, on the other hand, even so).

  • Terrorism in the United States has become a recent concern; in fact, the concern for America’s safety has led to an awareness of global terrorism.

3. To join elements of a series when individual items of the series already include commas.

  • Recent sites of the Olympic Games include Athens, Greece; Salt Lake City, Utah; Sydney, Australia; Nagano, Japan.


Enter questions below!

Monday: Clause

Grammar TidbitAccording to Merriam-Webster, a clause is “a group of words containing a subject and a predicate and functioning as a member of a complex or compound sentence.” Clauses come in two pretty packages: the dependent and the  independent.

An independent clause, or, “a group of words that contains a subject and predicate and expresses a complete thought,” is what is usually called a sentence. (We Grammarphiles say “independent clause” to be popular at parties.) This type of clause is the go-to car with a full gas tank; it can take you all the way to your destination.

A dependent clause is “a group of words that contains a subject and verb but does not express a complete thought.” Therefore, a dependent clause cannot be a sentence. This clause is…well, one of these. Don’t get the wrong idea: dependent clauses are not bad—they just cannot stand alone.

Why Writers Should Know This:

The only time an editor will pay attention to your dependent clauses is when you try to pass one off as a complete thought (read: sentence), like so:

When Jim was riding his bike.

Tuesday: Preposition Rules to Break

Rules to Break

“This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”

 Winston Churchill

You’ve heard of this rule, right? Don’t end a sentence with a preposition! Well depending on your style, you might want to think of it as only a guideline. Naysayers can quote this book or that, but don’t hold fast to something that might make a particularly fine sentence look confused. Sometimes, for the good of the work, there’s just no way around ending a sentence with a preposition.

There’s a particularly in-depth article by Geoffrey K. Pullum about the quotation above concerning the rule of prepositions paired with an object and those without. Also, there are claims that the “bloody nonsense” comment was misappropriated, but what evidence is there to back that up with?

Prepositions are great. Professors or Grammarphiles might hiss at you, but just smile and say, “What are you lookin’ at?”

Disclaimer: Don’t ever pair “at” with “where,” because it’s redundant. “Where are you?” says it all. “Where are you at?” says more than you would like to think.