Careful With the Pronouns in Your Content

Written by Dani Knezevic

December 4, 2021

Pronouns can be tricky, in more ways than one. Pronouns are used to replace nouns and their purpose is to avoid repetition and make sentences easier to understand. In English, the most common ones are he, she, it, they, and this. Gender pronouns, like he or she, have become controversial in recent times. This blog is not about gender pronouns, or whether they should be used. That is a subject for another article. This article is about overuse of pronouns.

Using a pronoun helps avoid boring writing. Without them, you would have sentences like “Bob went to the store where Bob bought a drink for Bob’s sister.” However, a problem arises when there are too many of them. When recounting a story, the facts may be very clear in the writer’s head and so they overuse pronouns, not realizing that instead of making the story clearer, too many pronouns lead to confusion. Let’s look at the next paragraph.

“Shirley and her sister received an inheritance from a last will and testament of an elderly friend. She was also named as executor. She knew that her 90 year-old neighbor had made these changes to her will in her favour a few weeks before her death. She was surprised that she received a lawyer’s letter when she notified her daughter of the changes.”

There are three women in this story but is it clear which one is being referred to in these sentences? Who was named executor, Shirley or her sister? Whose daughter was notified? Only one woman is named and only once creating a lot of ambiguity. While you can re-read the paragraph carefully and guess the most likely scenario, this lack of clarity slows down comprehension. 

Nothing helps push someone off your page than having to re-read what you wrote. People are just too impatient and too busy to hang around struggling. Do them a favour and write clearly enough that they get it the first time their eyes roam over your words. Or do yourself a favour and hire someone to write your content and focus on the things that you do best. I love helping business owners and marketers find the right words to get a clear and concise message across. Contact me and let’s work on your project. 

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