Pronoun antecedent agreement is a crucial component of effective writing. When a writer uses pronouns, it is essential to make sure that they agree in number, person, and gender with the nouns they are referring to. Here are the nine pronoun antecedent agreement rules that every copy editor should know.
1. Singular pronouns must reference singular nouns. Plural pronouns must reference plural nouns. For example, “She went to the store,” is correct because “she” is singular and “went” is the correct verb tense for a singular subject.
2. Pronouns and their antecedents must agree in gender. For instance, if the antecedent is a female, the pronoun that replaces it must be she or her. If the antecedent is male, the pronoun that replaces it must be he or him.
3. When a pronoun refers to a singular noun that could be either masculine or feminine, writers should use “he or she” or “his or her.” For example, “If a person does not take care of their health, he or she risks illness.”
4. When referring to groups, use plural pronouns. For example, “They were all happy with their scores.”
5. When referring to an indefinite noun such as “everyone” or “no one,” use singular pronouns. For instance, “Everyone should bring his or her own lunch.”
6. When referring to a collective noun like “team” or “jury,” consider whether the group is acting together or as individuals. If the group is acting together, use a singular pronoun. If the group is acting as individuals, use plural pronouns. For example, “The team won its game,” versus “The team members celebrated their individual accomplishments.”
7. Use reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, themselves) only when they refer back to the noun or pronoun in the same sentence. For instance, “I cooked the dinner myself” is correct, while “John and myself cooked the dinner” is incorrect.
8. Don`t mix up subject and object pronouns. The subject pronouns are I, you, he, she, it, we, and they. The object pronouns are me, you, him, her, it, us, and them. For example, “He gave the ticket to me,” not “He gave the ticket to I.”
9. Avoid ambiguous antecedents. An ambiguous antecedent is a noun that could refer to more than one thing, causing confusion for the reader. For instance, “After taking off, the plane landed safely” is ambiguous because it is unclear whether the plane or the pilot took off.
Pronoun antecedent agreement is essential for clear and effective writing. By following these nine rules, writers and copy editors can ensure that their writing is grammatically correct and easy to understand.