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4 Sneaky Words That Diminish Everything You Write

work templates pronouns
Wasn’t that crazy?

Did you see this after the baseball game? I can’t believe he said those things!

What about that guy and all these other people at the basketball game?

You’re thinking…Umm, what the heck is going on?

My point exactly.

Pronouns are a nuisance and in particular the four in bold: this, that, these and those.

You might not realize how often those the pronouns creep into your writing, but in total they the words create confusion and water down your message. Emails, job applications, presentations. All over the place.

So let me start over.

Did you see Chevrolet exec Rikk Wilde utter a string of nervous sentences when he presented a new car to San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner?

What about the video of Gustavo Angel Tamayo, the college kid who made four shots in a row to win $10,000 and then celebrated with a crowd of excited students?

Much clearer, right?

Let’s explore this the use of pronouns in our careers. Here’s an example on a cover letter (effective template here):

The person starts a new paragraph with:

“One reason I did that is because I need the right skills to be competitive.”

In the writer’s mind, the sentence is fine. Of course “that” refers to the previous paragraph and the decision to obtain a masters of sustainable design from Boston Architectural College.

Not so fast. Readers need constant guidance and a nondescript pronoun leads them astray. The sentence should be:

“One reason I obtained the masters degree is because I need the right skills to be competitive.”

Get my drift? Below, I created an easy way to remove the four troublesome pronouns when appropriate. Keep this the guide handy!

Also see: How to Improve Everything You Write in 3 Minutes or Less


Four Sneaky Words That Weaken Everything You Write

Pronouns make it difficult for readers to understand your message. In many cases, you should delete the pronoun (ex: “this”) and use the actual word or phrase.

Example: “I am proud of this because…”

Better written as: “I am proud of the decision to start my own business because…”


1. Hit CTRL+F and look for these pronouns: this, that, these and those.

2. If the pronoun represents a word or phrase, consider if you should delete and replace.

  • “I wrote that to prove a point” becomes “I wrote the grammar lesson to prove a point”
  • “Sally gave me this to say thanks” becomes “Sally gave me the present to say thanks”
  • “The Millers need these for the vacation” becomes “The Millers need the house keys for the vacation”
  • “John handed me those to be helpful” becomes “John handed me the hammer and nails to be helpful”

3. Check your edits for clarity and comprehension.

4. Voila! You made your work sharper and more professional in a few quick minutes.


Any other thoughts on pronouns?

Share below!


 Featured photo: Bryan College (Flickr)


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