Facebook, Stop Promoting Pronoun-Antecedent Disagreement



Oh grammar, you tricky beast. Even though I spend my days getting paid to edit other people’s writing for these little problems, even I need to double check the more complicated rules from time to time. It’s easy to slip up and make little mistakes like a misplaced comma here or there, but there are certain rules that we should always be getting right. And now, it seems that even the social media behemoth is now getting one of those major ones wrong.


It makes me blush at the nerdiness of a post title like this one, but friends? Pronoun-antecedent agreement (complicated as it may sound) is one of the more basic rules you learn in writing. When you’re using a pronoun (he, she, it, his, hers, theirs) it refers to something earlier in the sentence (Max, Susan, that girl, your classmates). That thing earlier in the sentence? It’s called the antecedent.

So let’s say we’re talking about Vin Diesel. I’ll wait while you finish oogling his biceps and liking his page on facebook (seriously, you won’t regret it).

If Vin Diesel is updating a cover photo, we would say HE updated HIS cover photo because he is a singular man, and the pronoun referring to him must agree in number to the antecedent (in this case, Vin, or Dom Toretto if you prefer). If we were talking about the whole cast of The Fast and The Furious (RIP Paul), we would say THEY updated THEIR cover photos because in this case, the antecedent (the whole cast of the movie) is a plural, or a group of people.

In gender-sensitive times, it’s become popular to use THEY or THEIR incorrectly when referring to a generic singular word like “a student” to avoid being accused of gender discrimination by limiting the sentence to women or men, but the easy way to avoid this problem is to pluralize the sentence and say students/their. And I get what Facebook is doing. They’re attempting to be gender neutral, and I applaud their efforts in instituting new categories of genders to select. However, with all the technology out there, can’t they script their application to select the gender appropriate pronoun based on the person’s profile selection rather than defaulting to the plural THEIR?

We all have a tough enough time remembering those little grammar rules as it is. We don’t need social media to subconsciously reinforce the wrong rules all day when we scroll through our news feeds, even if we do get to look at Vin Diesel while we’re doing it.  

Bright Lights = Bad Decisions

lightsIt’s not news that your environment impacts how you feel. In cooler temperatures people tend to feel more calm and collected, and are able to feel empathetic with other’s emotions, while on hot summer days you might feel more easily agitated. It’s also well-documented that lack of sunshine in the winter can affect people’s moods. But now researchers have explored the connection between exposure to light and decision making. Typically when someone dims the lights, it’s to create a certain ambience – in a restaurant or in a home – that feels closer, more romantic. Yet a recent study has shown that lowering bright lights can help people to make more rational (read – less emotionally charged) decisions.

Exposure to bright lights turns on the hot emotional system, which can make reactions more extreme. In the study, participants were placed in two scenarios. In one experiment, people were participants in a script with an aggressive character. When experiencing the same scenes in bright and dim lighting, participants found the character less abrasive when the lights were lower. In another experiment, participants were given a tasty juice in bright and dim lighting. They drank more of the beverage when emotions were activated by the well-lit room. The co-author of the study, Alison Jing Xu Ph.D suggests using these results to lower conflict by dimming the lights when hashing out a disagreement with a co-worker, arguing with a romantic partner, or when you are about to indulge in a sweet snack to avoid letting your emotions overrun your better judgement. And wouldn’t every workspace be a better place if we got rid of all the harsh fluorescent lighting anyhow?

Find Girl Scout Cookies Near You

girl scout cookies

I encountered an interesting quandary this year when my little cousin gave up girl scouts in favor of 4-H. Can I blame her? No, horses are cool. But where was I going to get my samoas and do-si-dos this year? Handily for me, a friend’s co-worker had a bit of an ordering snafu that led to her needing to offload 100 cases of cookies instead of 100 boxes. But some people don’t have my luck, and are forced to cruise by elementary schools and grocery stores hoping to see a little girl in uniform setting up shop to find their cookies. Until now, that is. Kellogg has come up with an easy way to avoid looking like a potential predator, and still get your cookies. It’s called the Girl Scout Cookie Locator, and it’s a free app from the iTunes store. I downloaded the app, even though I already have my cookies this year, just to test it out.

It works by using the GPS in your phone, or by searching on an entered City/State or Zip Code. You can look for cookies on sale today if you need them right away, this weekend, over the next week, or if you’re really desperate, ANY COOKIES AT ALL NEAR YOU. After your results come up, you can sory by Date, Proximity, Name or view all results on a map. But the app doesn’t stop there, there are fun quizzes that will tell you your cookie personality, and recipes of things you can make using all the cookies you just bought. And if you know you are going to polish off your 4 boxes in one sitting (just don’t look at the nutrition info they have listed first) and need more soon, you can set up alerts for when the cookies go on sale near you.

Post-President’s Day Vacation Links

president's day

Hi Friends! I spend the past 10 days or so relaxing, hitting the slopes to take advantage of all this fresh snow, and visiting the wonderful city of New Orleans over President’s day week. You may have missed my regular posts while I was on vacation, and please bear with me while I get back in the swing after my trips. Here are some links to keep you entertained while I get busy shaking the cobwebs out of my brain.

If this never-ending winter has you down, here are 10 proven ways that you can be happier.

A new nail polish always lifts my spirits. You too? I love the bright yellow they have pictured here. It just says sunshine.

Being born and raised in Upstate New York, I appreciated that The Huffington Post took the time to write an article about things upstate people can teach everyone else about living well.

This entire blog is dedicated to animals hitching a ride on other furry friends. LOVE.

I have a specific playlist that I listen to when I want  to fall asleep on a plane. This article covers the best things to listen to for your lullaby.

If Disney princesses wore historically accurate outfits, they would look like this.

If you loved Tara and Johnny’s commentary and matching outfits at the Sochi Olympics, don’t be too sad that they’re over because now they’re going to be on the red carpet at the Oscars. Is anyone else cheering right now?

If you’re thinking about doing a little spring shopping, here are all the staples that 20 somethings should have in their closets.

Say It Like Hemingway


If you’re torturing over the perfect way to wish your love happy Valentine’s day, there’s an app to the rescue. You’ll be bold, clear and to the point with the Hemingway app. You enter what you want to say, and the website tells you how to say it like Ernest. Just enter text, and different shades of highlighting will lead the way. Yellow means you’re being too word, and you should probably cut down your sentence length. Red will tell you that you’re confusing and your meaning is unclear. Blue will tell you to quit it with the pansy adverbs and pick a verb with power. Purple will tell you to pick a shorter word, and green indicates you’re using the passive voice – don’t want to mistake have loved for love today! Then go have a drink and celebrate a job well done. That’s what Ernest Hemingway would do.

Snowy Day Links


If you’re like everyone else in the northeast, you’re a little down and out that you didn’t get a snow day. It’d be cool if they existed after elementary school amirite? So, while you’re avoiding thinking about your commute home, here are some things to read.

While some things might be going wrong in Sochi, here’s why it’s tacky that everyone is tweeting about it.

The worst couples you’ll see while you’re out at your Valentine’s dinner tomorrow.

Ladies dancing in the red light district for a cause.

Who knew the Wikipedia had a gender gap? Here’s how people are trying to close it.

6 Reasons to Do Whatever You Want.

Here’s an interesting argument for looser drug laws. Marijuana may help stop the spread of HIV.

A brilliant commentary on the letters between stay at home and working moms that have gone viral.

How you shouldn’t act about Valentine’s Day.

Or if you’re looking for love, here’s some data on the words that are most successful in dating profiles.

Empowering Women Through Stock Photos


It is important to give people images like themselves that they can look up to, and identify with. It’s why dolls have been created in all skin, hair color, and eye shade combinations (hello American Girl!). It’s why there is constant pressure in the media for magazines and ads to use “real” looking women. It’s why people fight for diversity of lead roles in movies. And now, the new frontier is those stock photos that you see popping up all over corporate PowerPoints, and that are often mined to accompany blog posts much like this one. You may have noticed that all of the “working women” photos are weirdly homogeneous (just google working women and click over to the images tab). All of the ladies are wearing navy or black suits, have perfectly done hair and makeup, and most often are sitting by a computer. While it’s great to see women associated with technology, these images just don’t realistically reflect most working ladies of today. I mean, Hillary can sure pull off a pants suit, but when is the last time you saw the average Jane dressed like that for the office? And are you sure she even works in an office?

Now LeanIn.org and Getty images are out to change all that. The two powerhouses have teamed up to push out images of working women in a variety of environments that actively break out of the stereotypes of traditionally female work. They will showcase female soldiers, bakers, hunters, and surgeons. You can view the collection, and purchase images here. The goal is to tell women and girls that they can be the things they can’t typically find images of, and additionally the LeanIn.org has created two new grants that will focus on creating visual campaigns and photographs covering news about women. Huzzah for opening minds and doors to women’s work.

Several Reasons I’m Not Really Into Reading Lists


I read a whole bunch of websites on the daily (to the tune of 10-20), and one thing I have noticed cropping up more and more are lists everywhere. I enjoy a list as much as the next gal who is into organization. Post-it notes with numbered to-do’s are how I stay productive at work. A list in a notebook by my bed is how I fall asleep at night without worrying about the things I need to do the next day. Programmed cell phone alarms (which are really lists broken down into bullet points) are how I remember to do mega important things for my social life, like remind my book club to show up at our meeting, or buy those awesome concert tickets the absolute minute they go on sale.

That being said, I’m getting rather sick of 6 Reasons I Should Do [Insert any activity], 10 New Products YOU MUST BUY, 8 Workout Tricks That Will Change Your Life. I remember the days when this style of writing was a novelty. I would scan the website, and think, “Why YES, how did they know I would love to hear 7 things that will revolutionize my life, and how thoughtful they let me know in advance how long the article is.” They are easy to consume, and kind of fun to click through when you’re in a mid-afternoon daze and want something easy to read.

Don’t get me wrong, I get why websites are doing it. Thanks to iPhones, the collective American attention span has decreased to the size of a puppy in a room full of toys (in my totally scientific assessment). There are so many articles to read, so many ways to read them, and so many different sites posting about similar things. Websites want to make their content easy to digest, and give all the busy people a sense of how long it will take them to read it. It’s all a big strategy to encourage more clicks on more articles. But still, it’s making my reading experience a little bland now that everyone is doing it. And even further? I think it’s a bit of a cop out. Why write a coherent article broken up into logical paragraphs when you can just make a bulleted list, and add a few sentences with no transitional statements? It’s chopping up the fun of a good long read into disjointed mini-stories packaged as one.

There are some topics that only merit a few sentences a piece, and it can be interesting to group a whole bunch of items into one fun series. It’s just something to think about – are we over using the list? And can it be done a little better (think Slate’s 2M to read summary in the sidebar)?  I think it can.

The Spotlight’s on Unnecessary Chemicals in Fast Food


The petition against Subway to remove the chemical azodicarbonamide from their breads gave rise to some pretty funny social media jokes (like how now we all know where that unique subway bread scent comes from). And it’s definitely a good thing that this major chain is making a move to go more natural, and less chemical with it’s food products, even if it was under major public pressure. It made me pretty happy I have never been a fan of their sandwiches when I read the coverage. But, the same chemical is found in many products on other fast food restaurants menus, including:

  • McDonald’s: regular bun, bakery style bun, bagel and English muffin, Big Mac bun and sesame seed bun.
  • Burger King: specialty buns, artisan-style bun, sesame seed bun, croissant, English muffin, home-style Caesar croutons and French toast sticks.
  • Wendy’s: bagel, premium toasted bun, sandwich bun and panini bread
  • Arby’s: croissant, French toast sticks, harvest wheat bun, honey wheat bread, marble rye bread, mini bun, onion bread and sesame seed bun
  • Jack in the Box: bakery style bun, jumbo bun, croissant, grilled sourdough bread and regular bun
  • Chick-fil-A: chargrilled chicken sandwich, chicken salad sandwich, and chargrilled chicken club sandwich
  • Dunkin’ Donuts: Danish, Croissant, and Texas Toast.

These other chains have not indicated an intention to remove the ingredient from their products, with the exception of Starbucks, which has already started a transition away from baked goods containing the chemical. So how concerned should you be? While it seems better to avoid it, there is no need to panic if you’ve been eating $5 foot longs for lunch every day. Europe and Australia ban the use of the ingredient, but it is actually FDA approved for use in controlled amounts. It has had bad effects in animal studies. It increases the level of urethane, a carcinogen, in bread when baked, but seems most harmful in its industrial form for workers exposed to it in high levels. The ingredient may not be desirable, but it is not so dangerous that it has been poisoning customers. Yet it is something to think about next time you find yourself looking for a quick bite. Is it really worth taking in all of those unnecessary chemicals from processed foods, or just waiting until you get home to make yourself a sandwich?

The Pro’s (and 1 Con) of Women’s Only Gyms

gymOver the past couple days, I have noticed several posts about women’s only gyms (here and here and here  for example!). They note that there’s a common perception that women’s only gyms are for the older ladies, or a relic from the Richard Simmon’s jazzercise era. While I don’t necessary understand why either of these would be negatives (I mean, Richard Simmon’s is amazing, amirite?), the articles note an upswing in the popularity of exclusively female gyms, and ask readers if they would join one. For me, the answer is yes. I am a member of a ladies-only gym, and I love it. While I do miss being able to oogle cute boys from there treadmill, there are many many more things that I enjoy.

I don’t have to compete with grunting meat heads for the free weights. Instead of racks on racks of bench press equipment, there are big bins of free weights, weighted balls, and body bars – all things geared toward lady-fitness. When I take a Zumba class, I don’t have to worry that my crazy moves and tattered college tees aren’t impressing the potential boyfriends in the row behind me and I haven’t had anyone creepily hit on me while I’m stretching yet. And if people think that all-girls classes are easier, I can say from personal experience that they are not. Last time I went to boot camp, I almost threw up from all of the burpees, pushups, and planks the instructor called out. I don’t remember that ever happening at my coed classes. Then there’s the spirit of team work that reminds me of my days playing high school soccer. People actually cheer during the group classes (and even though this gets on my nerves sometimes), it’s kind of nice to be with a bunch of girls acting like girls while getting fit.