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From the March 11, 2016 obituary I read today in the Red Rock News:

His father Joe Lee McCoy was killed in a logging accident prior to his birth.

And that, my friends, is why the world needs professional writers.

The possessive pronoun “his” refers back to the last person mentioned—Joe Lee McCoy. How could the poor man be killed before he was even born?

Not to disparage the bereaved, but to illustrate a point with facts, I post this not only because it made me laugh, but also because it is one of the most common errors made in writing. To avoid making the same error, fix your eyes on the pronoun, in this case his, and move them left until they reach a noun—McCoy.

If you aren’t sure, hire a professional.

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