Construction Zone: Sneaky Repetitive Pronouns

I had a lovely post seventy-five percent done with a sample paragraph and editing demonstration for today’s topic…and then a tornado came through town, knocked my internet access out and my lovely post with it. No joke. And yes, I learned my lesson and am composing posts on my hard drive from here on out. I only mention this to warn you not to learn like I did – compose your blog posts on your hard drive, and copy/paste if you want to avoid losing your hard work. As for today’s post, I’m afraid you get the short version because I don’t have time to recreate the longer one…apologies.

Now, back to those sneaky repetitive pronouns. It’s only recently that I realized they were sneaking up on me – probably because I’ve been working on getting my repetitive word problem under control, so I’m hyper-sensitive to the pronouns as well. But they’re so handy for “telling” a story…and the fact that they slip in so easily is probably a testament to my lazy drafting voice. I don’t think all “telling” is bad, but obviously showing is better where ever possible.

While marking up Tempest, I wanted to crumple page 12 up and toss it while reading through 66 instances of “she” and “her”, collectively. It’s a pretty hot scene though (in my opinion), so it stays, but those pronouns have got to be cut down to a manageable level. Because readers should not be subjected to that.

I have a method of dealing with pronouns that seems to work pretty well and it’s easy to implement. I work one sentence at a time, and read it without the pronouns (just skip right over them). Sometimes I read them aloud. Most of the time, the phrasing only needs a little tweaking in order to banish many of the pronouns altogether. I also try to avoid starting more than one sentence every 3-4 paragraphs with a pronoun, in order to force variety to my sentence structures (a whole different problem, but limiting my pronoun usage helps a lot).

The cool thing about this is how many other problems this fixes. While I’m cutting pronouns, I normally end up fixing any poor phrasing and grammar issues, and the whole sentence structure changes for the better. The whole time, I’m focused on simply banishing those sneaky pronouns – the rest is just a happy side effect.

Are your pronouns sneakily trying to take over your work? How do you keep them from getting out of hand?

9 comments on “Construction Zone: Sneaky Repetitive Pronouns

  1. Sidni

    Wow, this is a great technique Jamie! Overuse of pronouns is one of my writing hurdles as well. It’s especially obvious when I have a scene with two females or two males. Which is which? I’m going to give this a try.

  2. Meg

    I’m not really there yet…

    But I’m bookmarking this one for when I am. Kinda cool that you can focus on one problem and fix several!

  3. Carol

    A tornado? Seriously? I never thought of Montana as tornado country. Hope everything else is okay with you.

    I’m with you on the pronouns. I go over my work one sentence at a time and by eliminating some of those pesky pronouns I find a lot of other things get fixed as well. Great how that works, isn’t it?

  4. Tara

    I haven’t really counted my pronouns. Might be something for me to look into.

  5. Davin

    Wow, I never really thought of pronouns as being a problem at all. But, I do suffer from repetitive sentence patterns, so maybe this has been my problem all along. I’m going to have to look into it. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Caterpillar Heavy Equipment

    A nice article about the construction and so nice to read have explained it very nice thanks for sharing the information……

  7. Lia Simon

    My problem is also redundancy of content in writing, but I hope I practice these tips I’d be able to get rid of using a grammar checker.

  8. clear span

    Even i have learned it the way you did.
    Never laid much emphasis on the repetition of pronouns. Will give it a look hence forth.

  9. help for statistics

    Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that.