March 25, 2009

Avoid lonely pronouns «this» and «that»

Whenever you write the word «this» or «that» in your essays, be careful not to leave them without a clarification noun. Avoid lonely «this» or «that.» These pronouns must be always followed by nouns, which explains what we meant by that «this» or «that.» Consider the following example:

He killed him. This was for the first time in his life.

Now, what does this writer meant by this «this» in the beginning of the last sentence? Did he mean «This cool bloody slaughter was…» or «This immoral and irresponsible crime was…»? Note that adding a clarifition phrase can change the meaning and intentions of the writer critically.

Consider another example:

He walked by the sea, and saw a stranger -- very far away -- in a hat and a raincoat embrace a girl, who was barely seen because of his mighty back. That was a good thing to do.

In this example, the pronoun can indicate several things:

  1. the walk by the sea
  2. watching the guy embrace a girl
  3. actually embrace a girl.
So, what did the writer mean by that «that»?

So, whenever you write «this» or «that,» be sure to add a clarification phrase (which must include a noun) immediately after. Be extra careful when the sentence starts with this pronoun.