None the Worse for Where

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.

None.

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

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “None the Worse for Where

  1. K.L. Gore

    Thanks for the humble post, Joan. It’s a good reminder to all of us that sometimes we’re wrong…even when we feel confident we’re right. I’ve seen errors in novels that have had amazing editors. No one is perfect, and it’s best we accept that so that we can forgive ourselves for what others might consider simple mistakes!

  2. SAY

    Nun? I stay away from that word. You can get your knuckles smack if you use it incorrectly.

  3. There are words I avoid too. In 1985 I enlisted in the army. My drill sergeant had one saying that he used over and over again and it I have taken it with me ever since, to reflect this very thought. It is “,I will not use the word ‘Outstanding’ it has been used too much. It now only means to me that you are out standing in the rain!”

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