Lonely Hearts Club for Unattached Pronouns

Raya's DungeonWelcome back to Raya’s Dungeon, Chamber 3.  In Part 1, we talked about Mutilated, Misplaced and Missing Modifiers.  These boo boos can cause unintentional hilarity.  Now, comic writing as an art gives writers a great feeling when we have achieved it.  But to cause people to laugh when we don’t mean it sounds the death knell on our lovely dramatic piece.  Part 2 deals with another way to make people laugh when we mean them to shiver, cry, or hold their breath.  I give you…

Unattached Pronouns…or Distanced Antecedents

Here we are talking about it and they and other unattached pronouns that refer to absolutely nothing in the sentence and give entirely the wrong meaning. Better to have too many proper names or real nouns than pronouns bouncing around with no social conscience and very little sense, lonely and misunderstood. (Yup, real life again.)  Take a look.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, the breathtaking backdrop for the Serena Lodge. Swim in the lovely pool while you drink it all in.  (Ewwwwwwwwwwwwww!)

Mt. Kilimanjaro, the breathtaking backdrop for the Serena Lodge. Swim in the lovely pool, relax and drink in all the beauty of your surroundings.

We tear your clothes by hand.

We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.  (That’s what makes us the tearminators! muahahahaaaaaa)

We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We clean each piece of clothing carefully by hand.

Tired of cleaning yourself? Let me do it. (Ooooh, kinkyyy!)

Tired of doing the cleaning all by yourself? Let me do it.

Four-poster bed, 101 years old. Perfect for antique lover. (If he’s as antique as the bed, he ain’t getting far!)

Four-poster bed, 101 years old. Perfect for a lover of antiques.

Wanted: Unmarried girls to pick fresh fruit and produce at night. (They don’t want much, do they?)

Wanted: unmarried girls to works nights, picking fresh fruit and produce.

See the man with seventeen necks!!

In a clothing store: “Wonderful bargains for men with 16 and 17 necks.” (Dressing for their jobs at a sideshow?)

In a clothing store: “Wonderful bargains for men with neck sizes of 16 and 17.

This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come foreward and lay an egg on the alter. (What? The Easter Bunny was busy?)

This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and place an egg on the altar. (Notice I couldn’t help correcting the two typos either – it’s a congenital condition lol)

In a Los Angeles dance hall: “Good clean dancing every night but Sunday.”  (That’s why the hall is packed on Sundays.)

In a Los Angeles dance hall: “Good, clean dancing six nights a week. Closed Sundays.

So, when you’re finished your writing, put it aside for a minimum of an hour.  One day would be better.  Then take it out and read it.  What looked like deathless prose to you now reveals its hidden laughs.  Enjoy them, then change them, so your prose will now have more of the effect you intended.

Coming up in our next article is Missing or Mutilated Modifiers.  They look horrible, really horrible and not for the faint of heart.  But then, that’s what dungeons are for.  muahahahahaaaa

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4 responses to “Lonely Hearts Club for Unattached Pronouns

  1. I am guilty of these frequently in my first drafts. You are right that unattached pronouns and distanced antecedents are good for a laugh. I could easily write a whole post with some of my prose. I am working on fixing this issue. I am enjoying reading your Dungeon Chamber series. Very good advice 🙂

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    • What I really wish is that a pronoun for both she and he/his and hers would be invented that was acceptable to the English-speaking world. Some writers alternate, for one part of their writing they refer to “he” and “his,” for the next part they use “she” and “her.” Other writers are using overkill and always refer to “she” and “her/hers.” It’s awkward writing a sentence with “s/he” and “his/hers” in it. And it does spoil the flow.

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  2. I am a volunteer editor and was looking for examples of the use or perhaps misuse of what I have been calling “dangling pronouns” to show some of the writers with whom I am working. Thank you for the giggles and the mid-edit pick-me-up. Is “unattached pronoun” the proper, official terminology for such lonely “they”s and “it”s?

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    • Kathryn, I’m glad my article gave you a giggle. I’ve done many hours of editing and know how much a giggle is needed now and then. I believe unattached pronoun is the proper terminology. Dangling is more often used for misplaced modifiers I believe. If in doubt you can always call the word a pronoun without a direct antecedent. That states explicitly what the problem is.

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