By Nora Firestone
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In 2010, I posted this tip at another blog. Can you spot the flaw in the following slightly revised portion of a radio ad:
“Stocks are not for everyone. They're for anyone looking to diversify their portfolio.”
“Stocks are not for everyone. They're for anyone looking to diversify his or her portfolio.”
“Stocks are not for everyone. They're for investors looking to diversify their portfolios.”
The issue is the inconsistency in referencing "anyone" (singular) and "their" (plural modifier) portfolio. You probably hear or see this inconsistency all the time in ads that sound something like this: "If your client has questions, take the time to address their concerns," or "When a customer offers feedback, thank them."
Why avoid "singular their"?
While many people will tolerate what they call a singular their, many others notice that something's off in the message, and they can be momentarily distracted -- just enough to miss all or part of the remainder of the commercial. I elaborate on the distraction point in my soon-to-be released book "The $10,000 Apostrophe." For now, see the fix and enjoy the printable, shareable graphic version!
Nora Firestone is a professional writer, news reporter, Weebly website designer and acquisitions editor for Koehler Books publishing company. Since 2012, she leads presentations and workshops on writing for business, media relations, DIY website design, home-improvement projects and more.