As you have seen in the previous section, it is quite easy to confuse your reader. Even after you have mastered the dangling and misplaced modifiers, you still need to be aware of another culprit called the pronoun.
Pronouns are words such as I, you, he, she, it, they, we. They are used in place of a noun or a name. Even though you might have mentioned something or somebody's name in the previous sentence, it can be quite confusing if you only refer to it by using a pronoun in the following sentence. This happens often in continuous texts.
The story continues:
- After 124 years a prince cut through the briars around the castle with his sword and kissed Beauty, which woke her up.
Here are some (confusing) examples:
- The wicked fairy was angry that she not only got kissed by the prince but that he also wanted to marry her. (Who was getting kissed and married?)
- After all this time, she was getting quite old and had lots of wrinkles in her face. (Who is getting old?)
- They really were amazingly happy together. (Who was happy?)
As you can see, even though you might have all the information clear in your mind, it can be confusing for the reader. The golden rule in this case is, repeat the name of the person or object if necessary to avoid confusion.
Suddenly the previous sentences become much clearer:
- The wicked fairy was angry that Sleeping Beauty not only got kissed by the prince but that he also wanted to marry her.
- After all this time, the wicked fairy was getting quite old and had lots of wrinkles in her face.
- Sleeping Beauty and the prince really were amazingly happy together.
Of all the pronouns, the No. 1 offender, however, is 'it'. It can be really confusing.
Look at the following text and try to work out what 'it' stands for.
The castle lay dreaming in the fading daylight. It was sombre and gloomy. A short, balding shape was approaching the castle on its horse. The black crows were cawing a warning, but it didn't appear to notice. It was still continuing on its way. Suddenly a horrible screeching noise shattered its peace. The figure, now revealed as a prince, had drawn its sword and was galloping towards it.
Well, have you worked out what all the it and its refer to?
Here is a better version:
The castle lay dreaming in the fading daylight. It was a sombre and gloomy day. A short, balding shape was approaching the castle on its horse. The black crows were cawing a warning, but the rider didn't appear to notice. He was still continuing on his way. Suddenly a horrible screeching noise shattered the peace of the castle. The figure, now revealed as a prince, had drawn his sword and was galloping towards the castle.
See how much clearer the second version is. Guess which version your lecturer would prefer (if your assignment were about Sleeping Beauty that is).