Executive Secretariat- Link to Home page
Link to NIH Staff Interaction with the Executive Secretariat
Link to Help with Writing Official Correspondence Link to Plain Language Initiative
Link to Reports & Meetings Link to NIH Key Staff Lists Link to About Executive Secretariat
Return to Previous Page Return to Home Page
Link to Help with Writing Official Correspondence
Guidance on Preparing Documents for the Secretary Style Guidelines for Official Correspondence Writing Basics Use of Specialized Terms, Abbreviations, and Acronyms On-line Writing Resources
Composition Frequently Misused Words Grammar Punctuation Style


Avoid splitting infinitives (e.g., to rapidly run) unless meaning will be distorted otherwise.

Possessive Nouns with Gerunds

Remember that a noun preceding a gerund is most often in the possessive case.

John's leaving is unfortunate.

He objected to my asking a question.

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

The antecedent of a pronoun must be unambiguous. Be careful not to write sentences like the one that follows, in which it is not clear whether they refers to dirt and blood or to glass vessels.

Dirt and blood cannot penetrate glass vessels, nor are they affected by heat.

Pronoun Case

The form of a pronoun depends on its function within a sentence. Used as the subject of a verb, a pronoun must be in the nominative case. As the object of a verb or preposition, or as the subject of an infinitive, a pronoun must be in the objective case.

The disagreement is between you and me. [Me is the object of between.]

Bill gave the samples to John and me. [Me is the object of to.]

Mary is the one whom I saw in the lab. [Whom is the object of saw in the clause, I saw (whom).]

Mary is the one who we thought was in the lab. [Who is the subject of was in the clause, (who) was in the lab.]

Give it to whoever is the owner. [Whoever is the subject of is in the clause whoever is the owner.]

Rearranging a sentence in your head can help you determine whether a pronoun should be in the nominative or subjective case.

Go Back Go to Top

Last updated: April 17, 2003