Using Pronouns Clearly
This section has information about how to use pronouns correctly.
Contributors:Chris Berry, Allen Brizee, Eugene Charles McGregor Boyle III
Last Edited: 2013-02-21 10:21:04
Because a pronoun REFERS to a noun or TAKES THE PLACE OF that noun, you have to use the correct pronoun so that your reader clearly understands which noun your pronoun is referring to.
Therefore, pronouns should:
1. Agree in number
If the pronoun takes the place of a singular noun, you have to use a singular pronoun.
Remember: the words everybody, anybody, anyone, each, neither, nobody, someone, a person, etc. are singular and take singular pronouns.
(INCORRECT: their best)
(INCORRECT: their umbrellas)
NOTE: Many people find the construction "his or her" wordy, so if it is possible to use a plural noun as your antecedent and thus you can use "they" as your pronoun, it may be wise to do so. If you do use a singular noun and the context makes the gender clear, then it is permissible to use just "his" or "her" rather than "his or her."
2. Agree in person
If you are writing in the first person (I), don't confuse your reader by switching to the second person (you) or third person (he, she, they, it, etc.). Similarly, if you are using the second person, don't switch to first or third.
3. Refer clearly to a specific noun.
Don't be vague or ambiguous.
(Is "it" the motorcycle or the tree?)
(Who are "they"?)
(What is nice, the vacation or the fact that it is coming soon?)
(What word does "this" refer to?)
(What does "it" refer to, the sheet or your notebook?)