Don't Use a Pronoun to Refer to an Adjective!

 
  • In X.J. Kennedy's preface he explains that blah blah, so forth, and so on.
  • In Smith's story "The Downfall of the Arrogant Caterpillar," she suggests that blah blah, so forth, and so on.
In both cases above, the underlined elements are parts of speech serving as modifiers. "Kennedy's" modifies 'preface' and "Smith's" modifies 'story.' They are possessive nouns, which really aren't nouns: they're modifiers. 'Preface' and 'story' are nouns. Anything that modifies a noun could not be a noun. 

In the two sentence examples above (at the beginning), the bold, italicized print indicates pronoun use. A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun. Can a pronoun substitute for a modifier/adjective? No. In the above examples, can 'he' refer to the adjective Kennedy's or 'she' refer to the adjective Smith's? No. Pronouns don't refer to adjectives.

The noun that a pronoun refers to is called an antecedent. It is important to have a clear, concise antecedent. If there is no antecedent, then either there must be, or the pronoun should be replaced with an appropriate noun to suit the purpose of the context of the sentence.

To fix the above sentences:

  • In the preface to his anthology of English literature, editor X.J. Kennedy explains that blah blah, so forth, and so on.
  • In "The Downfall of the Arrogant Caterpillar," novelist Myra Smith suggests that blah blah, so forth, and so on.

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