Your mother loves to read. She reads at least one book a week. [Your mother (one mother)—single noun. She—single pronoun.]
Your mother loves to read. They read at least one book a week. [Your mother (one mother)—single noun. They (more than one)—plural pronoun.]
The incorrect agreement example may seem a bit silly. Or too obvious. No one would do that, right? Well, the next example dropped into my inbox this morning.
“Your customer doesn’t care about you. They care about their problem and they want to know if you can solve it.”
There are several errors in the last sentence.
1. Your customer is a single noun—one person. So the second sentence should begin with a single pronoun like he or she. They is a plural pronoun and doesn’t agree.
2. Their problem compounds the issue. The single pronoun should continue but doesn’t. Their is a plural pronoun (more than one person). And since their is plural, problem should also be plural (problems).
3. The second they works with the first They, but neither of them agree with the first sentence.
4. It (in the last part of the sentence) agrees with problem, but neither of them agree with They.
The correct way to write those sentences is as follows:
"Your customer doesn’t really care about you. He cares about himself and his problem and he wants to know if you can solve it." [You could substitute she/her for he/him.]
When you’re talking to your clients or customers, you want to get personal. Using “you” and “your” makes more of an emotional attachment with your readers. But how do you avoid the “he/she, him/her” sticky mess?
The easy answer is to use plural nouns. Begin with your customers and follow with their and them. (Your readers assume you have more than one customer. And if you don’t, just pretend.) Make sure the subsequent nouns and verbs agree.
"Your customers don’t care about you. They care about their problems, and they want to know if you can solve them."
Don’t despair if you’re not good at grammar. Not everyone is. Words of Passion offers coaching on specific grammar issues to get your writing where you want it to be. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 770.623.8303 to schedule a consultation.