Monday, May 9, 2011

Pronoun ? - writing tip

Question from my e-mail: Someone in my writers group insists I have "pronoun problems." I don't think I use too many pronouns, but I don't want to argue with her. I am always careful to use the given name once for every two pronouns, so....?

Answer: I'm guessing, of course, as I haven't seen the manuscript. But it could be that the pronouns are used inappropriately, rather than too often. The rule is a pronoun always refers to the preceding noun. Yes, even if the pronoun is He and the noun is chair. The rules of grammar are, well, the rules.

Basically, though, the important thing is not to confuse the reader. So if two people are present, a man and a woman and the name Mary is followed by “he said,” — that’s clear. It has to be the guy who spoke. But if the scene has two women and the “her” after Mary refers to the other woman, then the proper name should be used to avoid confusion.

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