More Word Wisdom from Lydel SimsPosted: February 18, 2010
Today I happened again upon some yellowed clippings from Lydel Sim’s old “Watch Your Language” columns. You may recall I wrote about him and his writing advice in my earlier post, Remembering My Mentor, Lydel Sims.
It has been more than 30 years since I first took one of Lydel’s writing classes at then Memphis State University (now it’s the University of Memphis), but I still am grateful for the help he gave during those long-ago classes, and for starting me on my writing career. Lydel’s advice was always tinged with his brand of humor — maybe that’s why I’ve recalled it so many times since then.
Here are two questions from the column along with his responses:
Sir: Plagued as I am by early English teachers, I’m still bothered by the use of “none” as a plural. But I’ve seen the use in many publications. Care to comment? — Bill C.
Gladly. The idea that “none” always takes a singular verb is one of the most potent, and mistaken, ideas of the uninformed. “None” may be either singular or plural and its use in the plural is actually more common. If your teacher taught you otherwise, ask for your money back.
Sir: A story in my newspaper said “she is one of those who was willing to speak out.” Is “was” correct? Shouldn’t it be “were”? “Of those who were. . . ” sounds better. Grammar can be so nitpicky. —J.S..
It can indeed, but I agree with you completely. It should be “she is one of those who were…” But I must regretfully confess that some authorities insist it’s all right to use the singular verb if you prefer. That leaves me feeling just as frustrated as the reader who thinks “none” should always take a singular verb. ‘Taint fair!
Since Lydel left this world, I’ve had to get my grammar help elsewhere. That’s okay, but I still greatly miss his advice and his unique humor.
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