Pronoun Reference


To avoid pronoun reference problems, follow these simple steps:.

  1. As part of your final editing process, discipline yourself to read all the way through your draft, focusing only on pronouns.
  2. Circle each pronoun and draw an arrow to its antecedent.
  3. If you can't find an antecedent or if the antecedent isn't grammatically equal to the pronoun, revise the sentence using one of these strategies:

    • Replace the pronoun with a noun to eliminate a vague pronoun reference.
    • Supply missing antecedents where needed.
    • Use a possessive pronoun to refer back to a possessive antecedent.
    • Revise sentences which contain more than one possible antecedent. Make the pronoun reference clear and unambiguous.
    • Place the pronoun so that the nearest noun is its antecedent.

Once you've focused on pronoun reference a few times, you'll progress from correcting errors to avoiding errors, saving yourself lots of editing time. The only way to develop your skill with pronoun reference, however, is to focus attention on pronouns until clear, explicit pronoun reference becomes a habit of your writing.

The other tutorials in the pronoun unit will teach you how to make pronouns agree with their antecedents and will help you choose the correct pronouns for specific kinds of sentences. For now, though, it's time to review pronoun reference and to test your skill on identifying pronouns and antecedents and making sure that every pronoun has a clear, explicit antecedent.