Today’s Writing Tip

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The judicious use of pronouns is a skill every author must master. Knowing when and when not to use them to achieve clarity without undue repetition is essential. Use them too much and the reader gets confused, especially if there are several characters of the same gender interacting. Unless the action or dialog clearly fits a specific character, they may get lost as to who’s saying what. This throws them out of the story, usually to back up several paragraphs or even a page to sort things out.

On the other hand, using a character’s name too often is annoying as well. When that happens in something I’m reading, I tend to roll my eyes and think “Okay, okay, I know who it is already!”

In most cases, there’s no need to use a character’s name more than once in any given paragraph. If there’s interaction with someone else, then in some instances you may have to clarify. When a single character is the only one “on stage” at the moment, however, you can go for paragraphs and in some cases, even pages, without repeating their name, particularly if it’s written from their point-of-view. How often to you call yourself by your first name?

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