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Pronouns: Clear Reference

A pronoun refers to or replaces a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun already mentioned. The word the pronoun replaces is known as the pronoun's antecedent. A pronoun should always refer to a clear and definite antecedent.
 
  Example Although the Canadian skater practiced daily with her trainers, she didn't win the championship.
[Her and she clearly refer to skater.]

State a specific antecedent.

Avoid using a pronoun such as they or it without an explicit antecedent.

  Faulty    When Rivera applied for a resident alien card, they put him through many bureaucratic procedures.
[The sentence does not have a clear antecedent for the pronoun they.]
 
  Revised    When Rivera applied for a resident alien card, government officials put him through many manybureaucratic procedures.

Before government officials issued Rivera a resident alien card, they put him through many bureaucratic procedures.

Make sure that a pronoun refers to a specific noun, not a possessive noun or a noun within a prepositional phrase.

  Faulty    In George Orwell's essay "Shooting an Elephant, " he reports an incident that shows the evil effects of imperialism.
[The pronoun he cannot refer to the possessive noun Orwell's.]
 
  Revised    In his essay "Shooting an Elephant," George Orwell reports an incident that shows the evil effects of imperialism.
[The possessive pronoun his can refer to the subject noun Orwell.]

Avoid an ambiguous reference.

Your readers should never be left wondering which this, they, or it is being discussed.

  Faulty    My husband told my father that he should choose the baby's name.
[Does he refer to husband or to father ?]
 
  Revised    My husband told my father to choose the baby's name.
My husband wanted to choose the baby's name and told my father so.

[seealso.bmp]
See also
Personal Pronouns
Possessive Forms
Agreement with Antecedent
Gender Bias
Point of View
Use of you
Intensive and Reflexive Pronouns
Who Whom, Whoever Whomever