Happy Thanksgiving. Oh, and observe pronoun/antecedent agreement!

The week we discuss pronoun/antecedent agreement.  As you recall from earlier tips, pronouns take the place of nouns.  Consider the following sentence:  “The Scribe went to the Oregon coast, where he enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday.”  In that sentence, the pronoun “he” replaces the noun “The Scribe”—which, by the way, is the antecedent of “he.”

To avoid confusing the reader, a pronoun must agree with its antecedent in both number and gender.  For example, in the sentence “the boy met with his coach,” the pronoun (his) agrees in gender and number with its antecedent (boy).  It would clearly be incorrect to say “the boy met with her coach” or “the boy met with their coach.”  Got it?  Good!

This gets a bit more complicated when the antecedent noun is an indeterminate gender (e.g., player, attorney, judge).  Since it is generally considered sexist to use a male pronoun in such circumstances (“each player should meet with his coach”), some writers use either a plural pronoun (“each player should meet with their coach”) or a series of pronouns (“each player should meet with his or her coach”).

These are awkward solutions, and such gimmicks are just as likely to offend the reader as using sexist pronouns.  The better solution is to avoid the problem entirely by recasting the sentence to eliminate the pronoun, e.g., “players should meet with their coach.”

That is all for now … Happy Thanksgiving!

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