Grammar Accord: Be Sure Your Nouns and Pronouns Agree

Grammar Accord: Be Sure Your Nouns and Pronouns Agree

by Kathleen Watson


If you remember early grammar lessons, you’ll recall that a noun is a person, place or thing:

man | village | car

The man drove to a nearby village to test-drive the car.

A proper noun takes the place of a noun; it is a specific person, place or thing:

John | Mayville | Chevrolet

John drove to Mayville to test-drive the Chevrolet.

A pronoun takes the place of or refers to a noun; it generally is less specific than a noun or proper noun:

he, you, they, it, ours, who, which, anyone, that, this, those

He drove there to test-drive it.

Although we all recognize that grammar is interpreted more casually than ever before, careful writers still pay attention to long-accepted conventions. Pronouns can get us into grammatical trouble when they don’t “agree” with the noun they represent.

Here are samples of mismatched nouns and pronouns, along with potential rewrites:

mismatch: Whoever breaks the rules is going to find they will be penalized.
problem: Whoever is singular and they  is plural
better: Whoever breaks the rules will find out there are penalties.

mismatch: A patient (singular) should feel comfortable with their (plural) physician.
problem: patient is singular and their is plural
better: Patients should feel comfortable with their physicians.

mismatch: Most experts say that as a baby (singular) grows and matures, they (plural) start sleeping longer at night.
problem: a baby is singular and they is plural
better: Most experts say that as babies grow and mature, they start sleeping longer at night.

These “one” pronouns often create problems with subject/verb agreement:

everyone | anyone | someone

mismatch: Everyone may use their computers during class.
problem: Everyone means every single person and their means multiple persons
better: All students may use their computers during class.

mismatch: Anyone who rides a bicycle should wear their helmet.
problem: Anyone means any one person and their means multiple persons
better: Anyone who rides a bicycle should wear a helmet.

mismatch: If you see someone using the back door, please direct them to the front.
problem: someone means one person and them means multiple persons
better: If you see people using the back door, please direct them to the front.

And remember that everybody, anybody, anyone, each, neither, nobody and someone are considered singular and should be paired with singular pronouns. Some writers believe they/them is becoming an acceptable pairing. I’m not yet among them. How about you?

Kathleen Watson has nearly three decades of experience as an independent business writer, serving clients in both corporate and academic settings. Her weekly blog, Killer Tips from The Ruthless Editor, offers practical word and punctuation tips, as does her recently published book Grammar For People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips From The Ruthless Editor. Contact her at:

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From dreams to reality… literally

From dreams to reality… literally

by Ross Caligiuri

It’s late at night and you are drifting in and out of the warm world that exists between awake and asleep. Suddenly, the ever-changing geometric patterns pulsing quickly through an array of alternating colors, defying the spectrum of your vision, form into a familiar shape. The face of a woman appears, and without warning you know everything about her – from lifelong desires to single moments of pain.

What happens next?

If you are anything like me, ideas for your project (art, storyline, song) probably visit you in your sleep, or at least in the moments before you begin dreaming. As a child, I was taught not to place a considerable amount of meaning on my late night visions, but as a creative adult I am gradually being made aware of the large number of individuals who pull inspiration from this unknown realm.

Still, none of us talk openly about this seemingly less-than-random occurrence. I wanted to use this blog post to officially state: I am a dreamer and I know others like me are out there! It’s time to remove the veil and begin this discussion in order to ultimately discover what we are unconsciously tapping into.

We all know that inspiration can strike at any given moment, but that’s not the purpose of this post. As I began to dive deeper into my research on this subject, I realized that many of my colleagues not only draw material, melodies, and characters from this world, but they also have visions of their own lives. Futures that can’t yet be explained, that is, until those moments come into fruition.

What the heck is this guy ranting about? Premonitions, or as some cultures refer to it, deja vu. Subconscious imprints left in our waking minds, only to be revealed to us yet again days, weeks, or years later.

My most recent experience with this phenomena happened while driving down the road in Middle of Nowhere, Montana. The man next to me – a tall, slender, musician type along for the cross-country tour. We had been passing the unwavering travel time discussing many subjects, from alien life and the subconscious mind to the quirks of human nature.

I breathed out a small laugh and turned to him, shaking my head slightly, my eyes leaving the road for a split second. “You won’t believe it, but I’m having deja vu at this very moment.”

Excitedly, he sat up straighter in his seat, shifting his weight onto his left leg. “What happens next?” he asked me.

“Well,” I started, attempting to collect my thoughts before continuing. “I remember all of this from a dream I had recently. That blue sedan cruising up ahead, this single lane road, even you sitting here next to me. It’s all familiar. Although at the time, since we hadn’t officially met in real life, I didn’t recognize it as you until just now.”

Before speaking again, I dug deeper into the fleeting moment that had now visited me twice, once in my dreams and now here in my present reality. “For some reason, I remember feeling panicked suddenly. Something happened to increase my anxiety – I think that’s why the memory of this dream stayed with me.”

“Do you remember what caused the sudden change of emotion in your dream?” he asked simply.

My eyes widened as my brain finally connected the world in front of me with the realm buried deep within my mind. “Yes! I do remember! A police car came up behind us with its lights flashing. I was frightened that we were going to be pulled over and given a ticket for some reason, but as I slowed the vehicle, the cruiser sped past us and disappeared into the distance.”

Excitedly we both craned our necks, looking out the windows of the van in all directions. After 20 seconds or so, our shoulders hunched back down and we began to laugh. Nothing but empty cornfields and a single blue sedan further up the road filled our line of sight.

Silence encapsulated the car as we contemplated our inability to capture a glimpse into the unknown. As the mundane task of sitting patiently in the van for another few hours settled into our thoughts, I glanced up into the rearview mirror.

The words “No way…” managed to escape my lips as my lungs tightened; on hearing me, my travel companion turned in his seat to look behind us. He drew in a heavy breath as we both silently watched the local police cruiser closing the distance between us, my body naturally slowing our vehicle and beginning to slide towards the edge of the road. As if orchestrated by a higher power, the pursuing law enforcement sped around us and continued far off into the distance.

Is it possible that I somehow connected with my subconscious mind in order to extract information that already existed in a future state? If so, could this mean that time exists as a whole, happening all at once and not in the linear point A to point B fashion we have always thought to be true? Has science fiction led us to believe that time travel is only possible through technological advancement and not simply by traversing time in a forward motion the same way our minds are able to drift back into a memory of the past?

What, if any, experiences have you had similar to this? A present moment you knew you had already experienced? An idea so perfect for your story that you had to get out of bed and write it down? A melody haunting your mind, begging you to sing it out?

Comment below – I’d love to hear all about it. 🙂

Did this post pique your interest or curiosity? Connect with Ross Caligiuri through his website,, where you will find copies of his new novel Dreaming in the Shadows available for purchase. Written on this subject and based around a dream he experienced, the series follows a main character with the ability to manipulate people’s memories, both past and future, using the powers locked inside of her own subconscious mind.

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Verbal Assassin

Verbal Assassin

by Brad Graber

Have you ever wondered what it might take to completely destroy your self-confidence? An unkind word? A nasty look? A physical interaction? Or just a stray comment made lightly – without much thought – by a stranger?


It could be a parent, a teacher, or even a friend. At least those people know you – and even if they say something mean-spirited, you might make allowances. Perhaps you stopped listening to them long ago. After years of therapy, you’ve learned to tune them out.

But a stranger is different. They have nothing vested in you. They don’t even know who you are. And yet, sometimes we give them the power to crush our dreams. Oh, did I say “our dreams”? Okay – I meant my dreams.


What did you say?

These are the people I refer to as “verbal assassins.” People who are eager to step on a writer’s dreams. People who say things like:

“You’ll never make any money.”

“What’s the point? You’re too old.”

“That sounds like an interesting hobby.”

And though they might be speaking a truth for themselves, for you, it’s as if someone just shot an arrow directly into your heart. After all, what’s the point of continuing? You’re just wasting your time.

What’s the point indeed!

It’s important that we don’t step on each others’ dreams! And even if it might be the longest shot in hell – as long as you’re alive, and willing to keep pushing along – who’s to say that you won’t be a rousing success?

No one but you has the power to limit who you should be. So the next time that verbal assassin innocently spouts off – remember, they are reflecting the story of their life, not yours. The last thing you should do is take it as a comment on your opportunity or future success.


Brad Graber was born and raised in New York City. He obtained a B.A. in Biology from theBrad Graber State University of New York at Buffalo, and an M.H.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, Miss. Brad is formerly a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a Certified Medical Executive through Medical Group Management Association. He no longer works in healthcare, though he does actively volunteer with local nonprofits. The Intersect is Brad’s first novel and will be released on Amazon in August 2016. You can reach Brad at or

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Now in Print: “A Passion for Planning”

Now in Print: A Passion for Planning

by Matthew Howard

Writing for this blog every month has been a great way to organize my thoughts into “advice columns” on topics related to writing and self-publishing. Enthusiastic responses from my writing workshop groups convinced me I was on the right track. Experienced authors affirmed my advice, and aspiring authors were grateful to have things explained to them clearly.

In February, I compiled my columns, added new material, and produced a booklet called A Passion for Planning: Nine Things I Wish I Knew Before Making My First Book.

I asked for feedback from current customers and new members of the weekly authors’ workshop I started this month. (Join us on They made great suggestions, and it’s a better book for it. Passion for Planning is available in paperback and Kindle for $9.95, and in PDF as a customer giveaway.


This quick-start guide to the world of self-publishing will get you up and running on your first book. It helps you answer the most important questions and make decisions that lead to a successful self-publishing project. In just nine short chapters, this easy read will demystify ideas about writing, marketing, budgeting, and choosing a platform to distribute your book.

By focusing on what you need to plan from the beginning, you will keep your costs down, avoid common mistakes, and nurture the passion that got you thinking about a book in the first place. A Passion for Planning is an indispensable guide to all the things you don’t yet know – but need to.

Now Available on Kindle for $9.95

Available in Paperback for $9.95.

_______________________Matthew Howard
Matthew Howard is a self-publishing author who supports award-winning authors and business professionals in writing, editing, designing, and self-publishing their work for global distribution in paperback and ebook formats.

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Steampunk: Tales of Future Past

Steampunk: Tales of Future Past

by Vaughn Treude


Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that has become quite popular in recent years. As the name implies, it features steam-era technology in a historical or fantasy setting. It has also given rise to a subculture based on the fictional works, with innovations in fashion (as shown above) art, and music. I have been an aficionado of steampunk since I first encountered it in the 1990s, and have written several works in this genre. In the upcoming months, my writing partner Arlys Holloway and I will be releasing a number of new works.

The term steampunk was coined by science fiction author K.W. Jeter to describe his 1979 novella Morlock Night, a fanciful sequel to H.G. Wells’ classic, The Time Machine. This was an appropriate beginning because, in many ways, steampunk follows in the footsteps of Victorian-era science fiction writers such as Wells and Jules Verne. The name is a play on words, combining 19th century steam power with a 20th century punk-rock attitude. The first steampunk novel to achieve critical acclaim (which was also my introduction to the genre) was The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. This book imagines a world in which Charles Babbage’s mechanical computing machine brought about the information revolution a century earlier.

Since then, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of fictional works that envision the future as seen by our ancestors. Their predictions were often comical, but at times surprisingly accurate. To be honest, I did not think steampunk’s popularity would last. I expected that it would go out of fashion like so many other niche literary styles. Yet it has endured, perhaps due to the economic and social turmoil of the last few decades. It offers readers an escape to an elegant world of refined tastes, manners, and old-fashioned adventure.

Most steampunk fiction is based in the Victorian Era (1837-1901), often in Great Britain – though a number of writers, myself included, have created stories with American protagonists and settings. Popular steampunk works include Scott Westerfield’s alternate-history World War I series Leviathan; Cherie Priest’s Wild West adventure, Boneshaker; and Gail Carriger’s Victorian-era urban fantasy, Soulless.

I began my foray into steampunk with my second novel, Fidelio’s Automata, which I published in 2015. Its hero is Cuban inventor Fidelio Espinoza, who comes to America to work with Thomas Edison. He creates a giant mechanical spider, intending it to perform dangerous occupations such as mining, but the prototype is stolen and converted into a weapon. Fidelio enlists the aid of Nikola Tesla to stop a group of corrupt businessmen from using his creation to victimize striking workers. The book is available on Amazon, along with a short story prequel called “Fidelio’s Dilemma.”

In an imaginative effort to promote the book, Arlys wrote a series of blog posts in the name of Professor Ione D, a young Victorian-era woman who traveled the world and collected recipes related to the places and people Fidelio encountered. We enjoyed Ione so much that we decided she needed her own adventures, beginning with Miss Ione D and the Mayan Marvel, which we released in ebook form in 2016. On April 1, 2017, we will publish the print version, which features 12 new illustrations by various contributors. Currently we are working on a sequel, Professor Ione D and the Epicurean Incident, which we will release in the same way – first in ebook form, followed by an illustrated print edition. Finally, I’ve written a second book in the Fidelio series called Fidelio’s Insurrection, which we plan to edit and prepare for publication, hopefully before the end of the year.

Steampunk offers an escape into a fictional world with rich historical settings, swashbuckling characters, and imaginative, gadget-driven steam-powered adventure. It incorporates a retro-futuristic style, mystery, romance and above all, fun.


Vaughn Treude grew up on a farm in North Dakota. The remoteness of his home, with few children nearby, made science fiction a welcome escape. After many years in software, he realized that the discipline of engineering could be applied to writing fiction. Check out his works at

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Tips for Writing Comedy

Tips for Writing Comedy

by Cody Wagner

As everyone who’s read my posts knows, I’m pretty dang hilarious. Now, that may seem really cocky, but it’s really not! Why? Because no one reads my posts. Thus, no one thinks I’m writer-laughinghilarious. See? Modest. Still, I have experience writing comedy as I contribute material to a local (but successful) sketch comedy group.

While there are tons of sites and articles out there that talk about comedy writing, I wanted to share a couple of my favorite tips. These are things that I pop into my head anytime I’m trying to write something funny.

Be Random

Just like with everything (clothes, popular movie/book genres, toys, etc…), there are trends in comedy that come and go. Remember back in the late 90s and early 2000s when gross-out comedy was all the rage? You couldn’t go a minute without seeing American Pie and There’s Something About Mary all over the list of box office hits.

Well, today, random comedy is really in. A couple of examples:

  1. There’s an episode of the popular cartoon, Bob’s Burgers, where Bob is talking to a shop owner who’s wearing pajamas but thinks they’re normal daytime clothes.
  2. The popular show 30 Rock had a scene where a woman shows off a tattoo of a seat belt across her chest. When asked about it, she says, “It’s so I don’t get pulled over when I drive topless.”

I remember those two scenes so well because, oh my God, they made me laugh so hard. And they’re great examples of random comedy. Those scenes come out at you from left field. And it’s fun to write stuff that makes people think, Where did that come from? Maybe that trend will fade out, but for now, there’s nothing better than being slapped with the random fish.

In my novel, I introduced bits of random comedy by giving my protagonist mouth diarrhea. He’s a good kid but has a tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. And the stuff he says is totally random and wacky. It was really fun to write and readers seem to enjoy it.

Write Comedy Around Situations, Not Jokes

This is the big one. In my opinion this isn’t a trend, but the basis for virtually all good comedy.

Have you ever watched a show where the setup for a joke is apparent from a mile away? And it seems like the entire scene was built around a joke? This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Funny scenes should happen organically. When hilarious things happen in our real lizard-laughinglives, it’s not because we’re building toward a predetermined joke. Instead, real comedy comes naturally from situations. Consequently, that’s how I think comedy should be written.

OK this may stir up some controversy, but I think Two and a Half Men was one of the worst shows ever. Why? Because they wrote for the jokes rather than the situations. It’s like the writers thought “I want to include this joke about women” and they all sat around trying to think of a scene where the joke would work.

All I have to say to that is: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

It feels incredibly backwards. It’s also lazy. I think it’s much more difficult to write a scene where comedy happens naturally than to build a scene around a joke. But, when done right, it’s so effective.

For example, I was always a huge fan of Friends because the writers were masters at creating comedy around situations. My favorite episode revolves around Monica and Chandler trying to keep their relationship secret while Phoebe and Rachel work to expose them. They end up in this huge cat-and-mouse game, with each party trying something more outlandish to reveal the truth.

Notice I didn’t mention a single joke there. That’s because the comedy came from their attempts and actions.

Hysterical Concluding Statement

At this point, I feel like I need to finish off with a hysterical statement. That way, readers are left thinking, Oh he just said something funny which validates this post. But I’m not gonna do that! Not because I’m being random or trying to make a point or anything.

No, that’s too much pressure and my brain just went blank. So I got nothing.

Au revoir!

cody-wagnerCody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and write. His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out.” See what he did there? Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at, or find him on Twitter (@cfjwagner), Goodreads, and Amazon.

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Reviewing “Shar’s Story”

Reviewing Shar’s Story

by Beth Kozan

I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me when, in 1993, my supervisor told me she is a birth mother. Three times at that first adoption agency I worked for, I was told by a coworker in a private shars-storyconversation, “Not many people know this, but years ago I gave up a baby for adoption.”

The old style of adoption – variously called “traditional adoption” or “closed adoption” – was based on the social mores of a different time. Sometimes described as the “baby scoop era,” many unmarried pregnant women were sent away from their families and communities to maternity homes where they gave birth, signed papers, and were expected to never tell anyone about the child who was placed for adoption.

In Shar’s Story: A Mother and Daughter Reunited, author Sharon Shaw Elrod recalls her decision to go to a maternity home and the lack of emotional supports available for herself and others, as well as from nurses during an extended labor. Everyone judged an unwed mother in those days. Shar followed the norm for that time: she did not hold her baby while in the hospital, she was not allowed to take pictures, and she signed relinquishment papers a few days after delivery, while still in the hospital. She was alone when she walked the floors in anticipated labor, she was alone as she gave birth, and she was alone as she left the hospital.

Shar focused on her education, gaining Masters in Social Work and an EdD in Educational Leadership. She married a dear man whose son from a prior relationship called her “Mom.” And she had a full life, professionally and personally.

When her daughter turned 21, Shar left permission for the Iowa adoption agency provide her daughter with identifying information when/if she asked. It would be another 15 years before she heard that her daughter was interested in “someday getting in touch with her.” Sharon describes with perfect anxiety the wait for “someday” to come.

She also describes the unbounded joy when the emails started coming, and how carefully each of them worked to established their roles. Shar prepared her extended family for to meet their new relative by telling her sisters and her aunts and uncles about the daughter she’d had. In the end, it was a rollicking success, as all the family members welcomed Shar’s daughter and her family into the fold.

During my 35-years career in adoption (30 working for adoption agencies and five years in private practice counseling people touched by adoption), I was fortunate to see adoption change from “the old way” to open adoption. Most of the changes were enacted because people who had used our services – birth mothers and fathers, adoptees and adoptive parents – called in, or came in, to tell how they’d fared; all seemed adversely affected by the secrecy surrounding adoption. Developing training for prospective adoptive parents has been the key in making open adoption a success.

You can purchase Shar’s Story, a self-published chronicle, by contacting Sharon at

Beth Kozan is the author of the book
Adoption: More Than by Chance and the forthcoming Beth KozanHelping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or visit her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.

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