Thursday, August 31, 2006

Eliminating the object pronoun "him"

In the last example of the previous post, notice that I wrote "she or he" instead of "he or she." Using these expressions interchangeably is good, because it avoids the subliminal suggestion in always putting he first. But it has a drawback: we're so used to reading he or she that she or he seems unidiomatic and calls attention to the writing. But only the first time and only for the second it takes to interpret, so don't consider this little speed-bump a distraction.

Either way, the he-or-she method has limited use, because it can quickly lead to writing littered with he-or-she's, as in monstrosities like this —

He or she can't fulfill the second part of his or her mission if he or she doesn't see the opposing net player making his or her move on the ball.

He (a subject pronoun) is easier to avoid than him (an object pronoun), and both are easier to avoid than his (a possessive pronoun).

To avoid him, your options are:
  • Switch to the plural.
  • Substitute a noun for "him."
  • Reword the sentence to eliminate the need for "him."
  • Substitute "him or her" for "him."
Here are examples of all but the last method.

Eliminating the Object Pronoun "Him"

Original: The best way to pressure a person is to confront him with choices.

Revised: The best way to pressure people is to confront them with choices.


Original: By demanding a down-the-line return, you make him hit the very return he usually tries to not hit.

Revised: By demanding a down-the-line return, you make receivers hit the very return they usually try to not hit.


Original: If your partner often does a particular thing you don't like, simply tell him how it makes you feel.

Revised: If your partner often does a particular thing you don't like, simply say how it makes you feel.

Labels: ,




0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home