It doesn’t matter which field you work in, at some point every professional academic is required to put fingers to keyboard to produce written content. As the internet increasingly dominates communication, it is even more important that you produce eloquent and well-informed content to distinguish it from the heap of carelessly-composed online text. To achieve this, it is vital to have a good understanding of English grammar and its nuances, and to apply this successfully to your written work. With this in mind, this series of articles explores the most common English grammar mistakes so that you can avoid them. This article discusses the four basic pronoun mistakes that editors frequently encounter. For more grammar hints and advice, please visit http://www.bioedit.co.uk/Grammar-Rules.aspx.
Pronoun errors are extremely common in academic writing, especially for authors who are not native English speakers. First, it is important to ensure is that the pronoun agrees in number and person with the noun it is modifying: for example, “The apples in the bowl were shiny”. This appears simple enough but it can easily be overlooked when a document is laden with abbreviations and acronyms. Correctly matching up the elements of a sentence helps the reader quickly grasp the meaning, allowing them to continue reading your work without distraction.
Another common pronoun error occurs when it is unclear which noun is being referred to by the pronoun. For example, in the lines “The cat caught the mouse, and it emitted a shrill cry”, it isn’t clear to the reader which of the animals emitted the noise. It is unwise to rely on the reader’s assumptions, especially since what appears obvious to you may not be so for the reader. Confusion like this causes major problems in technical writing and also serves to alienate the reader. It is vital to put yourself into the place of the reader when you check a manuscript to ensure that there are no uncertainties.
A pronoun error that persistently causes annoyance, and yet is extremely widespread, is the misuse of the object and subject forms of personal pronouns. Consider the following: “Stuart and me went to the shops”. This is incorrect as it should read “Stuart and I went to the shops”. The easiest way to check this is to remove the named person from the sentence and ensure that it still reads correctly. Reflexive pronouns cause even more confusion; therefore, remember that they can only be used when they refer back to another word in the sentence. Hence, “I put myself to bed” is correct and “he said it to Paul and myself” is incorrect because it is only in the former that “myself” refers back to a verb, “I put”. Fortunately, for most academic writing it is common to exclude personal pronouns, but inaccuracy in this grammar issue appears extremely careless and mastery will enable you to write eloquently to reviewers and journals.
One final pronoun error reflects a particularly inconvenient nuance in the English language: the lack of a singular, gender-neutral pronoun. A sentence such as “Somebody sent their form in late” is incorrect because “their” is a plural pronoun; instead, “Somebody sent his/her form in late” is grammatically correct. However, this is probably the most understandable and accepted mistake to make because the correct form is so unwieldy. Opinion is widely divided on this issue and, when possible, it is best to avoid it entirely by rewording the sentence. However, especially in texts that require brevity, it is often overlooked and you are unlikely to be reprimanded for such an error.
Proofreading and editing are therefore of paramount importance for academic work. Editing services, like www.bioedit.co.uk, work with authors to ensure that their work is clear, concise and comprehensible, without any grammatical or spelling errors. They offer a variety of services depending on the author’s needs. For authors who are comfortable writing in English, their Proofreading service, http://www.bioedit.co.uk/Pricing—Quotes/Proofreading, ensures that all spelling and grammar mistakes are avoided, and that the text is well-presented and comprehensible. Proofreading is completed by their in-house proofreaders with First-class BA & MA English degrees. For authors who need more help writing in English, their Comprehensive Editing service, http://www.bioedit.co.uk/Pricing—Quotes/Comprehensive- …, adds another round of editing performed by their area-specific Scientific Editors. Unlike other editing services, Bioedit only uses subject-specific, experienced editors with doctorate degrees. Finally, for work that is destined for immediate publication, their Comprehensive Editing Plus service, http://www.bioedit.co.uk/Pricing—Quotes/Comprehensive-editing-PLUS, provides three rounds of editing. Details of all these services and the different speeds they provide are available on their website, www.bioedit.co.uk, along with further grammar hints and tips.
BIOEDIT LTD, an on-line English editing company, provides professional English editing and English proofreading services to researchers in the life sciences who wish to have their work checked for correct English usage and grammar before they submit it to academic journals in biology and medicine for publication. To achieve high quality editing, BIOEDIT selects accomplished and experienced native English-speaking bioscience editors from world-renowned universities and centres of research to provide an English editing service that ensures faithful conveyance of ideas, correct grammar, and punctuation.
Based near The University of Manchester in Stockport, UK, BIOEDIT oversees the checking of your work in-house, from start to finish. As specialists in the life sciences, we are dedicated to scientists in this area, striving to ensure the most important research is recognised, published and read by the largest possible audience worldwide.