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Vague Pronoun Reference: Unexpressed Antecedents and Ambiguous and Implied References Mini-Lesson #85 From the UWF Writing Lab’s Grammar Mini-Lessons Series.

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Presentation on theme: "Vague Pronoun Reference: Unexpressed Antecedents and Ambiguous and Implied References Mini-Lesson #85 From the UWF Writing Lab’s Grammar Mini-Lessons Series."— Presentation transcript:

1 Vague Pronoun Reference: Unexpressed Antecedents and Ambiguous and Implied References Mini-Lesson #85 From the UWF Writing Lab’s Grammar Mini-Lessons Series

2 What is an antecedent? In grammar, an antecedent is the word to which the pronoun refers. A pronoun, then, depends for meaning upon a noun or another pronoun, the antecedent. Every pronoun must have a conspicuous, openly stated antecedent, or the reader will be left without a clue as to your meaning. –Though he tried his best to twist and bend the key, he could not break it. In the above sentence, “it” is the pronoun, and “key” is the antecedent to which “it” refers.

3 The Case of the Ambiguous Reference Many problems can occur within the meaning of your sentence if the antecedent is vague. The detective studied the manuscript with the aid of a magnifying glass; then he put it in his pocket. Does “it” refer to the manuscript or to the magnifying glass? The reader is left to solve the mystery.

4 Beware of unexpressed antecedents! Unexpressed antecedent: In James Earl Jones's commencement address, he said, "May the force be with you.“ Correct: In his commencement address, James Earl Jones said, “May the force be with you.” Unexpressed antecedent: It states in today’s paper that that the weather will be warmer. Correct: Today’s paper states that the weather will be warmer.

5 Implied Reference Also, the antecedent should be clearly stated and not merely implied. –My father wants me to become a medical professional, but I’m not interested in it. –In the above example, the reader can try to deduce, but will never completely know, the meaning of “it.” –Correct: My father wantsme to become a medical professional, but I’m not interested in medicine.

6 Wanted: Vague Reference The antecedent must be a single noun, not an entire sentence or idea. When a writer attempts to use a single pronoun such as who, which, or that to refer to an idea or a sentence, the result is a vague reference. –I am not doing well in my new office position, which my supervisor doesn’t understand. The pronoun which is considered to be a vague reference because the pronoun which doesn’t refer to the noun position, but to the entire sentence: that I am not doing well in my office position.

7 Solving the Mystery of the Vague Reference There are several ways to correct a vague reference; reword the sentence or insert a word or phrase before the “which” to determine to what “which” refers. Correction: –I am not doing well in my new office position, a situation [or fact] which my supervisor doesn’t understand. –My supervisor doesn’t understand why I am not doing well in my new office position.

8 More Rules… Avoid vague use of this or that. –The town voted to eliminate school crossing guards; this brought the parents out in protest. Avoid vague use of it. –In the newspaper, it says that gasoline prices will rise again next week. Avoid indefinite use of they. -They told me at the registrar’s office that I needed sixteen more credits to graduate.

9 More Rules… Make sure your pronoun has only one antecedent. - When Mike saw that the dogs had knocked down two elderly people, he ran toward them. Does them refer to dogs or elderly people? -Hattie never wrote her sister when she was away in college. Who is she?

10 You be the detective! A recent editorial contained an attack on the medical profession; the writer accused them of charging excessively high fees. Six or seven bearskin rugs decorated the room of the house, and Watson claimed to have killed them. After being depressed for two weeks, the criminal decided to get over it and resume his routine. Holmes learned that the partnership between Katz and Orenstein dissolved when he retired.

11 You be the detective! A recent editorial contained an attack on attack on the medical profession; the writer accused medical professionals of charging excessively high fees. After being depressed for two weeks, the criminal decided to get over his depression and resume his routine. Holmes learned that the partnership between Katz and Orenstein dissolved when Katz retired.

12 You be the detective! Six or seven bearskin rugs decorated the room of the house, and Watson claimed to have killed them. As they nervously filed into the auditorium, the teachers smiled at the graduates. Holmes advised her not to buy stock in the gold mine, which she ignored.

13 Case Solved! Six or seven bearskin rugs decorated the room of the house, and Watson claimed to have killed the bears. As the teachers nervously filed into the auditorium, they smiled at the graduates. Holmes advised her not to buy stock in the gold mine, advice she ignored.


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