Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Evil Grammar Torture

In honor of Halloween, I decided to inflect you all with a little grammar lesson. Our little escapade into the dark side of writing won't take long.


Pronouns - substitutes for nouns.

Substitute -  a word that functions as a replacement for any member of a class of words.

See, a pronoun is a replacement, but it doesn't tell you how good of a replacement. The words I'm afraid of decrease clarity and remove the opportunity to add texture to a story. They are called: indefinite pronouns.

Definition of an indefinite pronoun: less specific or definite about whom or what they substitute for

I see one word in that definition that screams terror into the writer's heart. 


I guess I'd better just get to the examples and show you the horror. 

"These were the desire of her heart."

These what? These dresses? These keys? These men (all five of them?) What??

Of course, taken in context we could make a good guess at what she desired. However, to tighten up the writing and make it easier for our readers to become one with the character, we should do our best to get them inside her head and her heart and not leave them to make educated guesses.

"Placing her hand against the Blarney Stone, walking the same streets apostles trod, catching Parisian rain on her tongue, and dancing in an Italian fountain were the desires of her heart."

Now you know something about the girl. Now you care about what she cares about. Now, like Dr. Frankenstein, you will bring your characters to life by scrutinizing your use of indefinite pronouns. 
(Notice I said reducing not eliminating. Indefinite pronouns have there place.)

In case you need a list, here is a very small sampling:
this, that, these, those, each

For a longer list, click here.

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