Usage and Grammar

Q. I’m a grammar teacher currently teaching paired/correlative conjunctions. According to AzarGrammar, with “neither . . . nor,” “either . . . or,” and “not only . . . but also,” the subject closest to the verb decides the singularity or plurality of the verb. So, following that rule, it would be “neither my brother nor my sister is happy.” However, with “I” being the first person singular, I’m confused. Is it, “neither my brother nor I am happy” or “neither my brother nor I is happy”?

A. Authorities seem to agree that the only way to handle such quandaries is to avoid them, because you can’t win. Either way, you look silly. You must rewrite as “My brother and I are both unhappy” or in some other way.