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Business Grammar: Pronoun Antecedent Errors

This paragraph contains an error. Find and correct it:
On July 28, managers presented second-quarter sales reports. Greg Cavalos and Daniel Stein discussed the customer service issues that caused the sales decline. Evan Dupont addressed Greg and Daniel’s report, and I agree with him.

Correction:
On July 28, managers presented second-quarter sales reports. Greg Cavalos and Daniel Stein discussed the customer service issues that caused the sales decline. Evan Dupont addressed Greg and Daniel’s report, and I agree with him.

business-grammar-pronoun-antecedent-image.pngExplanation:
This is an example of an unclear pronoun reference, often technically referred to as a “pronoun antecedent error.” Is the pronoun “him” referring to Greg, Daniel or Evan? It’s not clear, forcing the reader to make assumptions.

Solution:
If you use a pronoun to refer to previously discussed people, make sure the sentence structure makes it clear to whom you refer. The definitive Gregg Reference Manual provides an excellent explanation of this:

  • CONFUSING: Unrealistic deadlines, excessive pressures, and unsafe working conditions can be very damaging to your employees. You must do everything you can to eliminate them. [The employees or the destructive conditions?]
  • CLEAR: Unrealistic deadlines, excessive pressures, and unsafe working conditions can be very damaging to your employees. You must do everything you can to eliminate these destructive conditions.

 

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Mary Cullen

About the author

Mary Cullen

Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.

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