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Everybody: Singular or Plural

Explore the mysteries of indefinite pronouns. Is "everyone" the same as "everybody"?

By
Bonnie Mills, read by Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #111

The Write-Around

Grammarians agree that there is no perfect solution to this problem. I favor the advice that Grammar Girl has given in a previous episode. One of her suggestions is to rewrite the sentence to avoid the problem. So let’s go back to the problematic sentence we saw earlier: “Everyone is putting a smile on their face.” This one is fairly easy to rewrite: you could say, “Everyone is smiling.” Let’s make up another one: “Everyone had their hands in their pockets because it was so cold.” It wouldn’t sound so bad to write, “All the people had their hands in their pockets because it was so cold.” Just make sure your rewritten sentence fits in with the other sentences around it.

If rewriting isn't possible and the people you are writing for don't have a style guide, Grammar Girl suggested using “he or she if you want to play it safe, or using they if you feel bold and are prepared to defend yourself.”

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier

Finally, thanks again to Bonnie Trenga, author of The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier and who blogs at http://sentencesleuth.blogspot.com.

1. Garner, B. Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003, pp. 320-1.

2. Garner, B. Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003, pp. 643-4.

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