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Pronoun Antecedent Agreement Notes

Pronoun antecedent agreement is an important aspect of grammar that copy editors need to be familiar with. This principle ensures that pronouns used in a sentence match their antecedents in gender, number, and person. Proper pronoun antecedent agreement helps readers to understand your message clearly and avoid confusion. Here are some notes to help you achieve the right pronoun antecedent agreement in your writing.

The antecedent is the noun or pronoun to which the pronoun refers. It is vital to have a clear antecedent to avoid ambiguity and to ensure that the pronoun agrees with the antecedent in number, gender, and person. For instance, in the sentence, «John told Mary that he would not be coming to the party,» the pronoun `he` refers to John. Without the proper antecedent, the sentence would be confusing.

When the antecedent is a singular noun or pronoun, the pronoun that follows it must also be singular. For example, «Susan, who is a doctor, said that she had to attend to an emergency,» the pronoun `she` refers to Susan, which is singular. In this case, using the plural pronoun `they` instead of `she` would be incorrect.

In some cases, the antecedent can refer to a group of people or objects. In such instances, the pronoun that follows it must be plural to match its antecedent. For instance, «The children in class earned their prizes by working hard,» the word `their` refers to the children, which is plural.

When the antecedent is a collective noun, such as `team,` `family,` or `government,` the pronoun that comes after it can be singular or plural, depending on the context. For example, «The family is proud of its heritage,» in this sentence, the family is treated as a singular entity, and the pronoun `its` is singular. On the other hand, «The family members are proud of their individual achievements,» in this sentence, the family members are treated as separate entities, and the pronoun `their` is plural.

In conclusion, mastering proper pronoun antecedent agreement is crucial for effective communication. As a copy editor, you must ensure that every pronoun used in your text agrees with its antecedent in number, person, and gender. By following the tips outlined above, you can avoid common mistakes that can compromise the clarity of your message.