Prescriptive question

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Fri Jun 11 04:56:23 UTC 2004

On Jun 10, 2004, at 2:31 PM, Peter A. McGraw wrote:

> I know better than to ask the denizens of this list to BE
> prescriptive, but
> in this case I'm not sure whether a prescriptive "rule" exists anymore,
> even for prescriptivists.  I've tried the Chicago Manual of Style on
> this
> one, but no luck.  I don't have any other style manuals handy.
> The case is embodied in sentences like:
> "The Burgville Philharmonic invites you to subscribe to our upcoming
> concert season."
> Have even the prescriptivists dropped an earlier insistence on
> changing "our" to "its," or is this prescription alive and well for
> formal writing?

i've checked out eight handbooks -- four in the fowler tradition, four
manuals for college students -- and don't see this specific case
discussed or exemplified, though it would of course come under the
general rubric of pronouns having to agree with their antecedents in
person, number, and gender.  everybody's much exercised about pronouns
with indefinites as antecedents, and many of the books care a lot about
switches between various generic pronouns ("one", "you", "they"), but
no one seems to mention the lurking "we".

somewhere i have some nice cites of this, along the lines of "Lesbians
are finally making ourselves visible" -- though i myself find the
non-reflexive examples much easier to get than the reflexive ones.

arnold (zwicky at

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