What does freedom of choice have to do with neither-nor, a pair of correlative conjunctions? It relates to a rule of grammar I described a few days ago. Here’s an excerpt from this rule as it appears in The Chicago Manual of Style:
Correlative conjunctions are used in pairs, often to join successive clauses that depend on each other to form a complete thought. Correlative conjunctions must frame structurally identical or matching sentence parts . . . each member of the pair should immediately precede the same part of speech. Examples:
Neither Sarah nor Sam plans to attend the concert.
Either George or the twins are going to bring the sushi.
In The Copyeditor’s Handbook, author Amy Einsohn explains that while grammatical formalists “insist that a pair of singular nouns joined by neither . . . nor is singular . . . notionalists allow the pair to be treated as singular or plural, depending on the emphasis desired.” Einsohn offers the following example:
Neither the president nor the secretary was at the meeting . . .
But . . .
Neither the president nor the secretary were at the meeting.
Are you a formalist or a notionalist? The choice is yours. It may be a small matter: But small choices make up much of our lives and so determine the extent of our freedom.
Tara’s Writing Studio