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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Criminal Sentence 323: Pronouns

I'm trying to train my third grader to summarize books succinctly. He often begins his summary with "they." Of course I have no idea who he's talking about because a pronoun must refer to a previously mentioned noun.

Same problem here, in a book I read recently:

"Though they've never seen them [facial expressions], people blind from birth still use them."

As we find out later in the sentence, "they" means "people blind from birth." The fix is easy: just do a switcheroo:

"Though people blind from birth have never seen them [facial expressions], they still use them."

That mostly fixes the problem, but we still have two plural nouns, so the pronouns could confuse readers. It might be a good idea to avoid the pronouns:

"Though people blind from birth have never seen facial expressions, the sight impaired still grimace and smile, for example."

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