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Contributors:Tony Cimasko.
Summary:

These resources provide guidelines for using pronouns in your writing.

Pronouns

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:

Contributors:Tony Cimasko.
Summary:

These resources provide guidelines for using pronouns in your writing.

PronounsóClarity

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.

Contributors:Tony Cimasko.
Summary:

These resources provide guidelines for using pronouns in your writing.

PronounsóIssues of 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: