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Pronouns

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on February 26, 2009 .

Summary:
These resources provide guidelines and a practice activity for using pronouns in your writing.

Pronouns are those short labels that allow you to re-identify a person or thing efficiently, without having to use the original name of the person or thing repeatedly.  Using them effectively takes a bit of practice, however, in order to avoid common problems.  This handout will give a brief overview of pronouns and of common problems associated with their use, along with a practice activity.

This is a comprehensive list of English pronouns, divided into three categories:

In addition to simply standing in for nouns, a number of pronouns—that, who, whom, whose, which, where, when, why—can be used to build larger sentences out of smaller ones:

Pronouns - Clarity

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on May 5, 2010 .

Summary:

These resources provide guidelines and a practice activity for using pronouns in your writing. This page deals with clarity.

Pronouns are those short labels that allow you to re-identify a person or thing efficiently, without having to use the original name of the person or thing repeatedly.  Using them effectively takes a bit of practice, however, in order to avoid common problems.  This handout will give a brief overview of pronouns and of common problems associated with their use, along with a practice activity.

This is a comprehensive list of English pronouns, divided into three categories:

In addition to simply standing in for nouns, a number of pronouns—that, who, whom, whose, which, where, when, why—can be used to build larger sentences out of smaller ones:

Clarity

Clarity is one of the most challenging issues involving pronoun use, and it comes in several forms.  There are problems of specificity, in which the particular person or thing being referenced isn’t clear.  In following example, who is “her”?  Who is “she”?

Re-read your writing to make sure that your pronouns refer only to the person or thing you intend.  If it is unclear, it often means there are too many competing nouns.  In such cases, switch back to a noun.

Occasionally, writers will unintentionally switch the person of the pronoun.  In this example, the writer begins by referring to Yasuo in the third person (“he”), but then switches to the second person (“you”):

Writers will occasionally unintentionally confuse quantities, as in this example of a single thing:

To avoid these issues, make sure that you use pronouns consistently.

Pronouns - Issues of Gender

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on December 3, 2008 .

Summary:

This page explains pronoun issues as they relate to gender.

There are many instances in which you will refer to a single person, but an abstract one—an individual who has not been defined yet, meaning that it could be a he or a she.  A long time ago, writers used to use the male third person pronoun in such cases, but as women gained more access to professions and power, just relying on he became inadequate.  (There are a quite a number of English language instruction books out there that still use he in all cases, so be careful!)  One acceptable option is to use “he or she”/”him or her” and “his or her”:

Some readers find this a little awkward.  Instead, you may be able to use combined forms:  “s/he,” “(s)he,” “him/her,” “his/her.”  These may not be acceptable in all situations, so you’ll need to find out whether it’s acceptable in a given context.  Some writers use a gender neutral plural form (“they,” “them,” “their”).  Because these pronouns are primarily associated with plurals, though, readers may not accept them as substitutes for third person singular pronouns.

For more information on pronouns, visit the following OWL resources:

 

 

Pronoun Exercise

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on August 7, 2009 .

Summary:

This page contains the exercise for practicing pronoun use.

Take a look at the following sentences, identify the pronoun problems in each, and fix them.  When you are finished, check your responses with another student or with a teacher.

1. When a homemaker has three children, her life can be extraordinarily busy.
2. I am working on a major chemistry project during the spring semester.  He will spend every Saturday in the lab.
3. Donnie and Alexander are checking over the tax forms.  He will sign the forms when they are ready.
4. Perfecting your resume and writing a cover letter are two of the most challenging parts of applying for a job.  When you are doing it, it’s best to think about exactly what the prospective employer needs.
5. Paper and toner are two of the biggest expenses for this office.  It needs to be improved.

Click here exercise answers.