Why Use Pronouns? In Writing and Professional Life, Pronouns Matter!

Why use pronouns? Pronouns keep writing clear and workplaces inclusive, making them quite important in modern society.

In English writing, nouns give definitive names to people, places, things, and ideas. Yet using nouns over and over in a sentence can become redundant, especially if you have to use the same noun repeatedly. This is where pronouns can help.

English writers use pronouns to replace nouns in sentences. Today, pronouns have become a hot topic as many are pushing for pronouns to be more inclusive of all genders, including those who identify as LGTBQ. Using a person’s correct pronouns shows respect for that individual. It also creates an atmosphere of inclusivity and acceptance.

Here is a closer look at why we use pronouns in English and how those pronouns can be used sensitively.

Why Use Pronouns?

As the gender debates continue in society, many people are wondering why use pronouns altogether? The answer is that pronouns make English writing easier to read and understand. They also help it be less redundant because writers are not forced to repeat the same noun repeatedly to get their points across.

Using Pronouns in Essay Writing

Why use pronouns?
In formal essay writing, first- and second-person pronouns are best left out. Instead, this type of writing favors third-person pronouns

In the workplace, personal pronouns can help create an inclusive environment. In writing, pronouns also matter. When writing an essay, you will need to be careful to use pronouns that agree in gender and number. Yet knowing which pronoun to use can still be challenging, even in writing.

In formal essay writing, first- and second-person pronouns are best left out. Instead, this type of writing favors third-person pronouns. However, gender-neutral pronouns tend to be reserved for in-person situations rather than formal writing. Check the style guide for your writing project to see what pronoun you should use for situations where you do not know the gender of the antecedent. For example, sometimes you will use “he or she,” while sometimes, the preference is to use the plural “they” even for a singular subject.

The Role of Pronouns in English Grammar

Pronouns have a specific role in English grammar. They take the place of nouns to make writing less redundant. The noun the pronoun is replacing is called an antecedent.

Pronouns must agree with their nouns in gender and number. For example, if you are replacing the feminine noun “mother” with a pronoun, you would use she/her/hers. If you were replacing the plural feminine noun mothers with a pronoun, you would use they/their/theirs. These pronouns agree with their antecedents in gender and number.

Pronouns and the LGBTQ Community

The issue of pronouns has become a headliner as the LGBTQ community has gained a voice in modern society. When a person identifies as non-binary, female or male pronouns may not be the ideal choice. Using non-binary pronouns allows them to show their gender identity and open a conversation on an important topic. Similarly, someone who identifies as transgender may use the male or female pronoun that reflects their gender identity, not their biological sex.

Gender expression is highly personal, and using the pronoun an individual chooses allows them to embrace their gender identity with the respect of others. Choosing the correct pronouns for a person’s gender identity is important in inclusivity, but it’s not always easy to know a group of people’s pronouns. In a community that includes gender binary or transgender people, some may be tempted to avoid using pronouns altogether, but this creates confusion and wordiness in written correspondence. The solution is to find ways to allow nonconforming people to indicate their genders and to create an environment where using proper pronouns matters.

According to Springfield College and Wheaton College, Many gender fluid or non-binary individuals often choose Ze/Zir/Zirs/Zirself, Ze/Hir/Hirs/Hirself, Sie/Sir/Hirs, or E/Em/Eirs as their pronouns. Sometimes, non-binary or gender fluid people prefer to use the plural pronouns they/them/theirs. Though these do not agree in number, they can be used in this way to accommodate the gender and pronoun preferences of the individual. 

Why Pronouns Matter

Many people wonder why pronouns are such a big deal to non-binary people. Using the wrong pronoun can disrespect someone who has clearly defined their gender identity. Using the correct pronouns shows support and respect for the individual and their choices.

The English Personal Pronouns

Traditionally, the English language has a list of pronouns called personal pronouns. These pronouns replace antecedents that relate to people and concrete things. The current list of personal pronouns used in English includes:

  • I/My/Mine/Myself
  • You/Your/Yours/Yourself
  • He/Him/His/Himself
  • She/Her/Hers/Herself
  • They/Them/Their/Theirs/Themselves
  • We/Us/Ours/Ourselves
  • It/Its/Itself
  • Ze/Zir/Zirs/Zirself
  • Ze/Hir/Hirs/Hirself
  • Sie/Sir/Hirs
  • E/Em/Eirs

Using Personal Pronouns in a Sentence

If you are writing, you can use personal pronouns to replace a noun after the noun has been introduced. It is vital that your sentence is clear about what the pronoun is referring to. Here is an example of this done well:

  • Johnathan was excited about his vacation. He looked forward to hiking the mountain near his cabin.

In this sentence, the noun “Johnathan” is introduced first. The pronouns “he” and “his” clearly reference this original name.

Here is an example of pronouns used poorly:

  • Johnathan and Mark were heading on vacation. He was excited about his trip.

In this sentence, Johnathan and Mark are going on vacation together. However, it is unclearly who “he” and “his” refer to, so the pronoun becomes unclear.

You can also skip pronouns altogether. While this would be grammatically correct, it becomes wordy and hard to read. For example:

  • Johnathan and Mark were heading on vacation. Johnathan was excited about Johnathan’s trip.

In this case, it is clear who is excited and whose trip it is, but the sentence becomes extremely wordy. Using a pronoun for at least one name would make it clearer:

  • Johnathan and Mark were heading on vacation. Johnathan was excited about their trip.
  • Johnathan and Mark were heading on vacation. They were excited about their trip.
  • Johnathan and Mark were heading on vacation. Johnathan was excited about his trip.

All three of these are grammatically correct, but using pronouns changes the meaning slightly.

Encouraging Using Correct Pronouns

In a workplace or place of education, encouraging proper pronoun use is important to creating an inclusive environment. There are several strategies people can use to learn someone’s preferred pronoun to use it properly. Here are some ideas:

  • Encourage people to include their pronouns in an email signature line. This will tell other people in the organization what their preferences are.
  • Issue name tags that allow people to place their pronouns on the tag in a clear place.
  • Consider using gender-neutral pronouns or avoiding the use of pronouns altogether until you are sure what the person wants to be called.
  • Add pronouns to company bios and encourage people to look at these website pages to see the correct pronouns for their coworkers or fellow students.
  • Have a leadership model using correct pronouns so that others will follow suit.
  • Be patient, as this is somewhat new, and some people will struggle to switch to using gender-neutral pronouns.

Remember, proper pronoun usage is essential in a diverse and inclusive workspace. Model this for your team members, who will likely follow your example.

To learn more about pronouns, check out our guide on possessive pronouns!

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