As a copy editor, one of the most important rules to remember when writing is ensuring proper pronoun agreement. This means that the pronoun being used must match the noun it is referring to in both number and gender. However, there is often confusion surrounding the use of “neither” and how it should be paired with pronouns.
“Neither” is a word that is typically used to indicate a choice between two options, with the negative meaning “not either.” For example, “Neither salmon nor tuna is my favorite fish.” When using “neither” in a sentence, it is important to pay attention to the noun being referred to and ensure that any pronouns used agree with it.
The issue arises when “neither” is used to refer to two nouns of different gender. For example, “Neither the dog nor the cat licked their bowl clean.” In this sentence, the pronoun “their” is incorrect because it is plural, indicating that both the dog and the cat shared the same bowl. However, since the nouns are of different gender, it would be incorrect to use the singular pronoun “his” or “her” to refer to both.
To solve this problem, replace the pronoun with the noun being referred to. In the above example, the correct sentence would be, “Neither the dog nor the cat licked its bowl clean.” By using the singular pronoun “its” instead of the plural “their,” the sentence maintains proper pronoun agreement.
Another solution is to rephrase the sentence entirely to avoid the issue. For example, “The dog and cat both failed to lick their respective bowls clean.”
In conclusion, when using “neither” in a sentence, pay close attention to the noun being referred to and ensure that any pronouns used agree with it in both number and gender. If the nouns are of different gender, either replace the pronoun with the noun being referred to or rephrase the sentence to avoid the issue altogether. Proper pronoun agreement is essential in clear and effective communication, and should always be considered when writing.