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Pronoun Reference

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For clarity, the pronouns this, that, which, and it should ordinarily refer to specific antecedents rather than to whole ideas or sentences. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Pronoun Reference


1
Pronoun Reference
  • David Chadwick
  • Professor Tina Bodenheimer
  • English Composition 1010
  • FEBRUARY 23, 2008

2
23a Avoid ambiguous or remote pronoun
reference.
  • Ambiguous pronoun reference occurs when the
    pronoun could refer to two possible antecedents.
  • Wrong
  • When Gloria set the pitcher on the glass-topped
    table, it broke
  • Right
  • The pitcher broke when Gloria set it on the
    glass-topped table.

3
23a continued
  • Wrong
  • Tom told James that he had won the lottery.
  • Right
  • Tom told James, You have won the lottery.
  • In the previous slide What broke- the table or
    the pitcher? In this slide Who won the lottery-
    Tom or James? The revisions eliminate the
    ambiguity.

4
23a continued
  • Remote pronoun reference occurs when a pronoun is
    too far away from its antecedent for easy
    reading.
  • After the court ordered my ex-husband to pay
    child support, he refused. Eight months later, we
    were back in court. This time the judge ordered
    him to send checks to the Support and Collections
    Unit, which would then pay me. For six months I
    received payments, but then they stopped. (Wrong)
    Again he was summoned to appear in court he did
    not appear in court he did not respond. (Right)
    Again my ex-husband was summoned to appear in
    court he did not respond.
  • The pronoun he was too distant from its
    antecedent, ex-husband, which appeared several
    sentences earlier.

5
23b Generally, avoid broad reference of this,
that, which, and it.
  • For clarity, the pronouns this, that, which, and
    it should ordinarily refer to specific
    antecedents rather than to whole ideas or
    sentences. When a pronouns reference is
    needlessly broad, either replace the pronoun with
    a noun or supply an antecedent to which the
    pronoun clearly refers.

6
23b continued
  • More and more often, especially in large cities,
    we are finding ourselves victims of serious
    crimes. (Wrong) We learn to accept this with
    minor gripes and groans. (Right) We learn to
    accept our fate with minor gripes and groans.
  • For clarity the writer substituted a noun (fate)
    for the pronoun this, which referred broadly to
    the idea expressed in the preceding sentence.

7
23b continued
  • (Wrong) Romeo and Juliet were both too young to
    have acquired much wisdom, which accounts for
    their rash actions.
  • (Right) Romeo and Juliet were both too young to
    have acquired much wisdom, a fact which accounts
    for their rash actions.
  • The writer added an antecedent (fact) that the
    pronoun which clearly refers to.
  • Exception Many writers view broad reference as
    acceptable when the pronoun refers clearly to the
    sense of an entire clause.

8
23b continued
  • If you pick up a starving dog and make him
    prosperous, he
    will not bite you. This is the principal
    difference between a dog and a man.

  • - Mark Twain

9
23c Do not use a pronoun to refer to an implied
antecedent.
  • A pronoun should refer to a specific antecedent,
    not a word that is implied but not present in the
    sentence.
  • (Wrong) After braiding Anns hair, Sue decorated
    them with ribbons.
  • (Right) After braiding Anns hair, Sue decorated
    the braids with ribbons.
  • Modifiers, such as possessives, cannot serve as
    antecedents. A modifier may strongly imply the
    noun that the pronoun might logically refer to,
    but it is not itself that noun.

10
23c continued
  • (Wrong) In Euripides Medea, he describes the
    plight of a woman rejected by her husband.
  • (Right) In Medea, Euripides describes the plight
    of a woman rejected by her husband.
  • The pronoun he cannot refer logically to the
    possessive modifier Euripides. The revision
    substitutes the noun Euripides for the pronoun
    he, thereby eliminating the problem.

11
23d Avoid the indefinite use of they, it, and you.
  • Do not use the pronoun they to refer indefinitely
    to persons who have not been specifically
    mentioned. They should always refer to a specific
    antecedent.
  • (Wrong) Last year they shut down all government
    agencies for more than a month until the budget
    crisis was finally resolved.
  • (Right) Last year Congress shut down all
    government agencies for more than a month until
    the budget crisis was finally resolved.

12
23d continued
  • The word it should not be used indefinitely in
    construction such as It is said on television .
    . . or In the article it says that . . .
  • (Wrong) In the encyclopedia it states that male
    moths can smell female moths from several miles
    away.
  • (Right) The encyclopedia states that male moths
    can smell female moths from several miles away.

13
23d continued
  • The pronoun you is appropriate when the
    writer is addressing the reader directly Once
    you have kneaded the dough, let it rise in a warm
    place for at least twenty-five minutes. Except in
    informal contexts, however, the indefinite you
    (meaning anyone in general) is inappropriate.
    (See page 554.)

14
23d continued
  • (Wrong) Ms. Pickersgills Guide to Etiquette
    stipulates that you should not arrive at a party
    too early or leave too late.
  • (Right) Ms. Pickersgills Guide to Etiquette
    stipulates that a guest should not arrive at a
    party too early or leave too late.
  • The writer could have replaced you with one, but
    in American English the pronoun one can seem
    stilted.

15
23d continued
  • ON THE WEB
  • The rule on avoiding the indefinite you has
    sparked debates. If youre interested in learning
    why, go to
  • dianahacker.com/rules and click on
  • Language Debates
  • you

16
23e To refer to persons, use who, whom, or whose,
not which or that.
  • In most contexts, use who, whom, or whose to
    refer to persons, which or that to refer to
    animals or things. Which is reserved only for
    animals or things, so it is impolite to use it to
    refer to persons.
  • (Wrong) When he heard about my seven children,
    four of which live at home, Ron smiled and said,
    I love children.
  • (Right) When he heard about my seven children,
    four of whom live at home, Ron smiled and said,
    I love children.

17
23e continued
  • Although that is sometimes used to refer to
    persons, many readers will find such references
    dehumanizing. It is more polite to use a form of
    who- a word reserved only for people.
  • (Wrong) Fans wondered how an out-of-shape old man
    that walked with a limp could play football.
  • (Right) Fans wondered how an out-of-shape old man
    who walked with a limp could play football.

18
23e continued
  • NOTE Occasionally whose may be used to refer to
    animals and things to avoid the awkward of which
    construction.
  • (Wrong) A major corporation, the name of which
    will be in tomorrows paper, has been illegally
    dumping toxic waste in the harbor.
  • (Right) A major corporation, whose name will be
    in tomorrows paper, has been illegally dumping
    toxic waste in the harbor.

19
23e continued
  • ON THE WEB The rule on avoiding that to refer to
    people has sparked debates. If youre interested
    in learning why.
  • Go to dianahacker.com/rules and click on
  • Language Debates
  • who versus which or that

20
Exercise 23-1
  • Edit the following sentences to correct errors in
    pronoun reference. In some cases you will need to
    decide on an antecedent that the pronoun might
    logically refer to. Revisions of lettered
    sentences appear in the back of the book.
    Example
  • (Wrong) Following the breakup of ATT, many other
    companies began to offer long-distance phone
    service. This has led to lower long-distance
    rates.
  • (Right) Following the breakup of ATT, many other
    companies began to offer long-distance phone
    service. The competition has led to lower
    long-distance rates.

21
Exercise 23-1 continued
  • A. They say the Challenger disaster set the space
    program back five years.

22
Answers to Exercise 23-1 a-e
  • A. Some critics say that the Challenger disaster
    set the space program back five years.
  • Some critics replaced They at the beginning of
    the sentence.

23
Exercise 23-1 continued
  • B. She had decorated her living room with posters
    from chamber music festivals. This led her date
    to believe that she was interested in classical
    music, but actually she preferred rock.

24
Answers to Exercise 23-1 a-e continued
  • B. Because she had decorated her living room with
    posters from chamber music festivals, her date
    thought she was interested in classical music,
    but actually she preferred rock.
  • Because was added at the beginning, a comma was
    added after festivals, This led was removed, to
    believe was also removed and thought was added.

25
Exercise 23-1 continued
  • C. In Ethiopia, you dont need much property to
    be considered well-off.

26
Answers to Exercise 23-1 a-e continued
  • C. In Ethiopia, a person doesnt need much
    property to be considered well-off.
  • you dont was removed and a person doesnt was
    added.

27
Exercise 23-1 continued
  • D. Marianne told Jenny that she was worried about
    her mothers illness.

28
Answers to Exercise 23-1 a-e continued
  • D. Marianne told Jenny, I am worried about her
    mothers illness. or . . . about my mothers
    illness.
  • A comma was added after Jenny, that she was
    removed, open quotation marks were added, I am
    was added and end quotation marks were added.

29
Exercise 23-1 continued
  • E. Though Lewis cried for several minutes after
    scraping his knee, eventually it subsided.

30
Answers to Exercise 23-1 a-e continued
  • E. Though Lewis cried for several minutes after
    scraping his knee, eventually the pain subsided.
  • The word it was removed and replaced with the
    pain.

31
Conclusion
  • In conclusion, these are the topics covered in
    this presentation
  • 23a Avoid ambiguous or remote pronoun
    reference.
  • 23b Generally, avoid broad reference of this,
    that, which, and it.
  • 23c Do not use a pronoun to refer to an implied
    antecedent.

32
Conclusion continued
  • 23d Avoid the indefinite use of they, it, and
    you.
  • 23e To refer to persons, use who, whom, or whose,
    not which or that.
  • Exercise 23-1 sentences a-e for class
    participation.
  • Discussion.
  • Questions?

33
REFERENCES
  • RULES FOR WRITERS
  • FIFTH EDITION
  • DIANA HACKER
  • SECTION 23 Make pronoun references clear.
  • PAGES 190-196
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