How to Use Pronouns Correctly

This week I found myself going back and forth on how to correctly address a business entity in text while working on a project. It was late, I was tired, my mind was playing tricks on me. A business is run by a group of people so the pronoun should be they! I thought to myself. Then the editor in me–that had been asleep somewhere in my consciousness–finally chimed in, sweat over her brow, serious as usual with a bit of crazy in her eye. Don’t you dare type “they” again.

What is a pronoun? There’s no need to get fancy with it. A pronoun is basically a word used in place of a noun (he, she, it, me, you they, everybody, each, few, none, someone, many, who, whoever). Why do these words get a fancy name?  Because of rules, that’s why. All jokes aside, I wish I knew. English is complicated and to complicate things, what’s technically correct isn’t always how we speak to others so it takes a conscious effort to write correctly.

A business is an “it” or a “that” so use the proper pronoun accordingly and never address it as a group of people with personal pronouns like, “who” or “they”. To help settle any confusion, a business is made up of more than just a group of workers so simply can’t be a “who” or “they”.  A business is made up of a license, machines, office space, ideas and more things that make it an “it”.

Examples

  • Yes. I work for a business that rewards its employees; its mission is to serve so it’s a great place to work.
  • No.  I work for a business who rewards their employees;  their mission is to serve so they’re a great place to work for.
  • Yes. The university located on Elm Street is very strict about its uniform policy.
  • No. The university located on Elm Street is very strict about their uniform policy.
  • Yes. The dog is making its way to the finish line! Will it finish the race?
  • No (no matter how much we want to believe otherwise, animals are “its”).  The dog is making her way to the finish line! Will she finish the race?

-E