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Why pronouns are important

Posted by Maria Murnane | February 8, 2016

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party and someone tells a brief story about his friend Buddy. Chances are the storyteller will name Buddy just once and use “he” from there on because everyone listening to the story knows he’s talking about Buddy. If the storyteller were to say, “Buddy did this, and then Buddy did that, and then Buddy went there,” it would sound weird, right?

The same goes for books. Read the following two paragraphs out loud. Which one sounds more natural to you?

EXAMPLE A

Buddy arrived at the office brimming with confidence, knowing today was his day to shine and show the world his potential. Buddy strode toward the interview room with a spring in his step. “I can do this,” Buddy said under his breath as he reached for the doorknob.

EXAMPLE B

Buddy arrived at the office brimming with confidence, knowing today was his day to shine and show the world his potential. He strode toward the interview room with a spring in his step. “I can do this,” he said under his breath as he reached for the doorknob.

Example A makes me want to put the book down. Example B makes me want to keep reading.

I just finished reading an indie novel in which the author used the main character’s name (I’ll also call him “Buddy”) over and over and over when a simple “he” would have done. The story was interesting, but the overuse of “Buddy” was so distracting (and annoying) that it undermined the reading experience for me and will prevent me from recommending the book to others. A professional editor can help flag these problems before your book goes to market, so if you’re going the indie route, I strongly recommend hiring one.

-Maria

 

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2016 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “Why pronouns are important”

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  • Carole Avila says:

    Maria,
    Thank you for sharing this! How about overusing names in dialogue?

    “Hey, Buddy, how are you today?”
    “I’m fine. How are you, Sam?”
    “Well, Buddy, today I went to the race track.”
    “Really, Sam? Did you have a good time?”
    “Sure did. Buddy, it was good seeing you.”
    “You too, Sam.”

    I don’t know what I thought–that people were going to forget my characters’ names? Luckily, that was a long time ago!
    ~Carole Avila

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