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Clear Pronoun Reference

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Clear Pronoun Reference

Clear Pronoun Reference


A pronoun stands for a word or word group called its antecedent. The antecedent to which a pronoun refers must be clear in order for readers to understand a pronoun’s meaning.

EXAMPLE 
  • After Leslie painted the old dresser, it looked much better. [The pronoun it clearly refers to its antecedent, dresser.]

Ambiguous Reference

Avoid an ambiguous reference, which occurs when any one of two or more words could be a pronoun’s antecedent.

To revise an ambiguous reference, replace the pronoun with a specific noun or rewrite the sentence to eliminate the ambiguous reference.

AMBIGUOUS 
  • When Tammy saw Joy at the wedding, she was dancing. [The antecedent of she is unclear. Is Tammy or Joy dancing?] 
CLEAR 
  • When Tammy saw Joy at the wedding, Tammy was dancing. [The ambiguous pronoun she is replaced with the specific noun Tammy.] 
CLEAR 
  • When Joy was dancing at the wedding, she saw Tammy. [The sentence is rewritten to eliminate the ambiguous reference. Now, the pronoun she clearly refers to its antecedent, Joy.]

General Reference

A pronoun must refer to a specific antecedent, not a general idea.

Avoid a general reference, which is the use of a pronoun that refers to a general idea rather than to a specific antecedent.

The pronouns it, that, this, and which are often used in general references. To revise a general reference, use a specific noun or rewrite the sentence to eliminate the general reference.

GENERAL 
  • I once found an arrowhead. That was exciting. [That does not have a specific antecedent. Instead, it refers to the general idea of finding an arrowhead.] 
CLEAR 
  • I once found an arrowhead. That find was exciting. [The word group That find is clearer and more specific.] 
CLEAR 
  • Finding an arrowhead was exciting. [The sentence is rewritten to avoid the general reference.]

Weak Reference

Avoid a weak reference, which occurs when a pronoun refers to an antecedent that has been suggested but not expressed.

To revise a weak reference, replace the pronoun with a specific noun or rewrite the sentence to eliminate the weak reference.

WEAK 
  • Nate’s brother plays professional basketball, but I haven’t met any. [What is the antecedent of any? It is not stated.] 
CLEAR 
  • Nate’s brother plays professional basketball, but I haven’t met his teammates. [His teammates replaces the pronoun any.] 
CLEAR 
  • Nate’s brother plays professional basketball with his teammates, but I haven’t met any. [The sentence was rewritten to eliminate the weak reference. Now any clearly refers to teammates.]

Indefinite Reference

Avoid an indefinite reference—the use of a pronoun that refers to no particular person or thing and that is unnecessary to the structure and meaning of a sentence.

The pronouns it, they, and you are often used in indefinite references. To revise a sentence with an indefinite reference, remove the unnecessary pronoun and rewrite the sentence.

INDEFINITE 
  • On the radio it said that a new high school will open next year. [It does not refer to a particular person or thing. It is not needed in the sentence.] 
CLEAR 
  • The radio announcer said that a new high school will open next year. [It is removed, and the sentence is rewritten.] 
INDEFINITE 
  • In Elizabethan England, they valued a knowledge of Latin. [They does not have a clear antecedent.] 
CLEAR 
  • In Elizabethan England, a knowledge of Latin was valued. [They is removed, and the sentence is rewritten.]
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Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎

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