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Pronoun Reference


Correct Pronoun-Antecedent Reference and Agreement.

Rule 1: Make Sure That The Antecedent Reference Is Clear and Cannot Refer to Something Else

Communicators have the responsibility of ensuring that the receiver cannot misunderstand pronoun-antecedent reference. To avoid misunderstandings, be wary of these kinds of reference problems:

• Unclear reference
• "Distant relatives" (relative pronouns like who and which that are placed too far from their antecedents)
• Meaningless pronouns

Avoid Unclear Pronoun Reference.

Sometimes we're not sure what word senders are trying to replace or to refer to when they use a pronoun.

Common Pronoun and Antecedent Agreement Questions

• When I received the letter and the check, I noticed that it did not have a signature on it.
• When the cheerleaders distribute copies of the school cheers, let's take a good look at them.
• If the printer doesn't make a clear impression on the paper, I'll be glad to check it for you.

If a pronoun can refer to more than one possible antecedent, you'd better rework the sentence. The examples we just gave you can be corrected as follows:

• When I received the letter and the check, I noticed that the check did not have a signature on it.
• Let's take a good look at the school cheers when the cheerleaders distribute them.
• If the printer doesn't make a clear impression on the paper, I'll be glad to check the printer for you.

Avoid "distant relatives."

A "distant relative" is a relative pronoun or a relative clause that has been placed too far from its antecedent. People often mistakenly put a verb or some other part of the sentence between the relative pronoun and its antecedent, as shown in the following examples:

• Take the report to John that has February's sales figures in it.
• Leave information off the résumé that does not relate to your qualifications for the job.

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We improve the sentences by placing the relative clause immediately after the antecedent in each sentence, as shown in the following examples:

• Take the report that has February's sales figures in it to John.
• Leave information that does not relate to your qualifications for the job off the résumé.


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