Q. This is an excerpt from an investigative report:
Officer Doe said that Sgt. Smith takes sleeping pills while on duty. Officer Jones stated that on a couple of occasions, Sgt. Smith gave him sleeping pills to help him relax. When asked what time of day he would take these pills, Officer Jones responded, around 11:30 p.m.
It was unclear to me who he referred to, and I asked the writer for clarification. The answer I received from the writer was “The pronoun he refers to the last male proper name mentioned, therefore Jones, but I’ll make it clearer.” I had not heard this before. Is this a rule of writing?
Q. I have seen some texts using the pronoun her to refer to a business: “Apple’s profit was high due to her impressive product designs.” I would like to learn when I should use the feminine pronoun and when I should avoid it.