Grammar Error in NYTimes Ad—Quick Business Writing Lesson
Did you see drugfree.org’s full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times (p. 7 WK)? As a long-time business writing coach, I cringe when I see this error.
The only text on the page was this tag line:
If your child is using drugs, talk to them before it goes too far.
The poor grammar takes away from the message—many readers will focus on the grammar goof instead of the drug issue. “Your child” is singular; “them” is plural. We’ve all come across this pesky antecedent problem, but how do you avoid it? Using “him or her” is way too cumbersome, especially for a punchy one-liner like this. So avoid the pronoun problem altogether by eliminating it. Try
- If your child is using drugs, have a talk before it goes too far.
- If your child is using drugs, sit down and talk before it goes too far.
- If your child is using drugs, discuss it now—before it goes too far.
Your prose will sound more elegant and polished, and you will succeed in delivering a clear message.