Ambiguous and Vague Pronoun Reference Rule: It must be clear to the reader what noun the pronoun is referring to in a sentence.
Corresponding Time Tracker ReferenceRule number(s) 115 & 118 Background Information Ambiguous reference Avoid ambiguous reference. A pronoun refers to the nearest noun, even though the nearest noun may not be the real antecedent.
Examples • Oscar told Arnold that he’d bought the wrong book. (Which guy purchased the wrong book?) • Cindy was going to pick up the baby, but then she fell asleep. (Who fell asleep?) • I was very busy last week; it is better this week. (What is it?)
Examples, Continued Ambiguous : Remove the wrappers from the boxes and then discard them. (Discard the boxes of the wrappers?) Clear : Discard the wrappers after you remove them from the boxes
Vague: They say more rain is on the way. (Who is/are they?) Clear: The weather bureau says more rain is on the way Vague referenceAvoid vague reference. This occurs when a pronoun refers to a general idea or thing instead of a specific noun.
Vague: Last week I had three tests and a book report due. It was much better this week. (what is it?) Clear: Last week I had three tests and a book report due. My schedule was much better this week. Vague vs. Clear
PracticeRewrite each sentence correcting the ambiguous or vague pronoun reference. • The team has won every game this season and we think it’s terrific. • When Eric spoke to his girlfriend’s father, he was very polite. • Remove the door from the frame and paint it. • I sent in three box tops and the answer to the riddle. That could win the contest. • Take the socks off your feet, and wash them.
PracticeRewrite each sentence correcting the ambiguous or vague pronoun reference. • Many people disapprove of the candidate’s political ideas, and it cost him the election. • Peggy liked the prom dress in the store window, which she bought. • Albert told Oscar he’d bought the wrong book. • Cindy was going to pick up the baby, but then she fell asleep. • Rick could dance, sing, and play the violin. The judges awarded him first prize in the talent show for this.