Pronoun Phobic

There is a creeping problem in the world of authors and their books recently. For some reason, these people are afraid of using a pronoun instead of a name. The name of this disease is Pronoun Phobic. What it comes down to is that these authors are so unsure of when to use a pronoun that they use the names every single time, or so often that the reader is quickly becoming puzzled as to why this is occurring.

There are rules for using pronouns instead of names. Generally, you need to use a pronoun in most instances, but the name is right if there is some confusion as to which character is in the narrative or dialogue.

As with all rules in the writing world, these aren’t hard and fast rules, but a general way to be right is to have your character’s name used whenever there is some question who you are referring to or if there are a large group of characters involved in the action.

How do you do this? In narrative, it’s simple. You only have to ensure the story flows but also be certain that you aren’t overusing a name. Think of it this way—how do you verbally describe what’s going on in an incident you witnessed. Here’s a sample of the wrong and right ways to handle this.

Janice walked out the room and confronted Mark. Mark rolled his eyes and walked away from Janice. Mark did not want to have anything to do with Janice, because Janice was always up in Mark’s face about everything Mark did. According to Janice, Mark couldn’t do anything right, no matter how much Mark tried.

This is an oversimplification of a pronoun phobic, but it is a trend that is becoming more and more prevalent. The correct way to handle this type of narrative is this.

Janice walked out of the room and confronted Mark. He rolled his eyes and walked away from her. He didn’t want to have anything to do with her, because she was always up in his face about everything he did. According to her, he couldn’t do anything right, no matter how much he tried.

The second example is how people speak, how they think. Successful writing is about being natural, connecting with your readers in a way they understand. It does take time to get this right, but if you remember until someone else enters the narrative or dialogue, you can safely use pronouns for several paragraphs, slow down and think about how you’re writing.