Vague Pronoun reference

Essay by katiddHigh School, 12th gradeA+, June 2004

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A vague pronoun reference is not as complicated as the words sound. What happens when you have a vague pronoun reference is the noun of representation is not clear.

The government should not be permitted to regulate gay or lesbian marriage because it is discrimination.

The above sentence does not correctly identify exactly which noun is being represented.

Government is a noun, but marriage can also be a noun. Below is the correct way of stating the example sentence.

The government should not be permitted to regulate gay or lesbian marriage. The regulation of homosexual marriages is a classic example of discrimination.

Pronouns are substitutes for nouns. The word a pronoun refers to is an antecedent. A pronoun should refer clearly to its antecedent. A pronoun's reference will be unclear if a person cannot determine which noun the pronoun actually represents.

You should be able to substitute the noun for its pronoun.

If the pronoun takes the place of a singular noun, you have to use a singular pronoun.

Yes, I use the notes and the 3-day plan. It does not help much.

What exactly does "it" refer to, the plan or the notes? Since "it" is singular, it leaves the reader believing that the word "plan" is what is being referred to, but that assumption is wrong. The writer is actually referring to both.

Yes, I use the notes and the three-day plan, but neither helped much.

By saying neither, it refers back to BOTH items.


Do not start writing in the first person, and then switch to the second person. Switching causes confusion. Confusion is frustrating.

So what have you learned? Here is one...