Recently I was reading “Change of Heart” by Jodi Picoult, another of her page-turning symposiums on a divisive social issue. Even as I hung on her every word, one jumped from the page and halted me in my reading tracks.
Am I the only person in the world who regards that as a singular pronoun? When I read Picoult’s sentence, “None were…”, I practically hyperventilated. Jodi Picoult would NOT use incorrect grammar in her work. Never!
But still. If, I discussed with myself, the word none means not one or no one, then it follows that we should use a singular verb. For example: None was in the room. (As in, not one was in the room.)
Since this has been an ongoing gripe of mine, during which I’ve used singular verbs with the word or avoided using the word altogether, I consulted my Oxford College Dictionary. There, in its microscopic print, obviously for the sharp-eyed college student, it stated: none, pron., not any: none of you want to work■ no person; no one: none could match her looks.
So there you have it, directly from Word Heaven. I’ve been wrong. Me! This is when I have to literally eat my words. Eating crow… well, now, that’s another story.
–Joan Foley Baier