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Welcome to Writing Commons,

Writing Commons, https://writingcommons.org, helps students improve their writing, critical thinking, and information literacy. Founded in 2008 by Joseph M. Moxley, Writing Commons is a viable alternative to expensive writing textbooks. Faculty may assign Writing Commons for their composition, business, technical, and creative writing courses. We are currently crowdsourcing submissions via an academic, peer-review process (see Contribute).

What is a vague pronoun reference?

A pronoun is a part of speech that can replace a noun; its antecedent is the person, place, or thing to which the pronoun refers. A vague pronoun reference might include words such as it, that, this, and which, and can leave the reader wondering what or to whom the pronoun refers. Writers who strive for clarity in their work should be certain that each pronoun has a specific antecedent.

How can vague pronoun references be clarified?

  • Search the document for the words it, this, which, and that, and circle each occurrence.
  • Draw an arrow to the antecedent for each circled word.
  • If the antecedent is missing, rewrite the sentence to include a clear antecedent for each vague pronoun.
  • An appropriate noun or noun phrase may be added after this or before which.
  • If a sentence begins with it, replace it with a noun or a noun phrase.

Let’s look at some examples:

Vague: The student’s paper showed little revision between drafts. It lowered his grade.

Replace it with a noun or noun phrase: The student’s paper showed little revision between drafts, and the lack of effort resulted in a lower grade.

 

Vague: The student’s paper showed little revision between drafts. This lowered his grade.

Add a noun after this: The student’s paper showed little revision between drafts, and this problem lowered his grade.

 

Vague: The student’s paper showed little revision between drafts, which lowered his grade.

Add a noun before which: The student’s paper showed little revision between drafts, a problem which resulted in a lower grade.

For additional information on avoiding vague pronoun references, see also:

How to Use Writing Commons

Welcome to Writing Commons, the open-education home for writers. Writing Commons helps students improve their writing, critical thinking, and information literacy. Founded in 2008 by Joseph M. Moxley, Writing Commons is a viable alternative to expensive writing textbooks. Faculty may assign Writing Commons for their composition, business, STEM/Technical Writing, and creative writing courses.

Writing Commons houses eleven main sections: The Writing Process | Style | Academic Writing | Rhetoric | Information Literacy | Evidence and Documentation | Research Methods and Methodologies | New Media Communication | Professional and Technical Communication | Creative Writing | Reviews

The two best ways to navigate through Writing Commons are using the top menu navigation, called Chapters, or the left-hand navigation menu system.

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