Business Writing Essentials
Grammar

Match Pronouns

The purpose of the pronoun is to make the reading go smoothly, by avoiding the repetition of nouns. However, if there is ever any doubt about what a pronoun refers to, the reader must stop for an instant and make a best guess. That's bad. To spot these pronoun problems, it helps to know what to look for. The most common pronoun errors are mismatch and limbo.

Mismatch: The pronoun doesn't match (in person or number) the thing it should refer to.

Bob's cubicle was often home to impromptu meetings because they have a water cooler in front of them.

That is confusing. The third person singular pronoun is appropriate here:

Bob's cubicle was often home to impromptu meetings because it has a water cooler in front of it.

Limbo: It's not obvious to whom the pronoun refers.

Bob left the office to look for Ben, but he should be easy to reach.

That is ambiguous. Who is this he? Often it's necessary to be explicit and not use the pronoun.

Bob left the office to look for Ben, but Bob should be easy to reach.

Bob left the office to look for Ben, but Ben should be easy to reach.

There are all kinds of rules for all kinds of pronouns: reflexive, intensive, demonstrative, relative, and indefinite. All the more reason to have a copy of The Gregg Reference Manual tucked away somewhere. No one has to see it.

Lesson: Match Pronouns
Module: Grammar
Course: Business Writing Essentials