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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

God made pronouns for a reason.

For every editor, there's at least one editing pet peeve.

I've come across a few editors who like to change pronouns to character names. I've also come across plenty of manuscripts where character names are used in excess--both in dialogue and out. First, the dialogue issue. If you're having a conversation with someone, how many times during the back-and-forth will you really call them by name? (unless one of the conversers is a child, and the other converser is a mom--and then you can count on hundreds of "Mom"s in the dialogue) Maybe once. Maybe. So that's an easy fix--they pretty much all need to go, and the dialogue will retain its meaning.

But what about over the course of a scene? How many times is it okay to use "he" or "she", "his" or "her"? Some of those editors are not going to like my answer for this--but hey. I'm entitled to my opinion, and I'm going to flaunt it.

Unless you're using the same pronoun several times per sentence, you're okay. It's far better to repeat "she" than it is to repeat "Esmerelda". And I'd sure as heck rather read "he, him, his" than "Robert, Robert, Robert's". Pronouns become invisible or silent words, in the same way the word "said" becomes silent. They're placeholders, to keep the reader on track with which character we're referring to, or which character is speaking. But unless you have more than one character of the same sex per scene, using those names is unnecessary (and possibly annoying).

So when in doubt, use the pronouns. There's a reason every language has them.

Piper Denna -- EIC at Lyrical Press, Inc.

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