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Spaulding

Who are "they?"

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I know who I mean, but I'm not sure if the readers will. Could you tell me who they/them are in this sentence? (Valentine is "she.")

 

Valentine was fidgety around the skateboarders, but with Teddy and Spaulding by her side, she bossed them into planting three rows of tomatoes, before they could show off the new tree fort.

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I took they/them to mean Teddy and Spaulding, but I guess it could also refer to the rows of tomatoes. 😄

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Rebecca, ha! My fear is founded. "They" are supposed to be the skateboarders. Back to the stocks with this sentence. I must whip it to submit. xD

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What about just a simple change? Something like:

 

Quote

Valentine was fidgety around the skateboarders. With Teddy and Spaulding by her side, she bossed them into planting three rows of tomatoes before the skateboarders could show off the new tree fort.

 

Or...

Quote

Valentine was fidgety around the skateboarders. She bossed Teddy and Spaulding into planting three rows of tomatoes before the skateboarders could show off the new tree fort.

 

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Instead of remembering what my English teachers said, I define pronouns as short, imprecise words that we use instead of longer, precise nouns, so we can speak faster. (...or read faster... and they may substitute for long phrases, too...)

 

The point is, pronouns are by their very nature imprecise, and any train of thought that contains more than one group of people risks being ambiguous when using they/them. It can sometimes be done, but must always be done with caution.  (BTW: you have both a they and a them in the sentence, and both are ambiguous.)

 

To avoid repetition of "skateboarders," put the pronoun and skateboarders reeeeealy close together. Presuming that both the they and the them refer to the skateboarders:

 

It made Valentine fidgety, but with Teddy and Spaulding by her side, she bossed the skateboarders into planting three rows of tomatoes before they could show off their new tree fort.

 

This is a little better, but I'd still want to use further context to show that the tree fort belonged to the skateboarders...

 

Edited by Wes B
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Clarification first -- skateboarders are human. Tommy is a skateboarder, (thus human), but Teddy used to be his teddy bear. And Teddy, Spaulding, and Valentine/she are stuffies. (Stuffed animals.)

 

And this is why it's so hard for me to write short MG novels. The fix --

 

She forgave the skateboarders, but she fidgeted around them, so Teddy and Spaulding stayed near her.

 

The skateboarders tried proving themselves by offering rides.

 

She wasn't interested.

 

They wanted to show her the new tree fort they made for her.

 

She needed the whole garden replanted. Now.

 

They pulled out their pocket knives.

 

She hid behind Teddy and Spaulding.

 

Spaulding imagined knives piercing him, but he stood still.

 

Teddy ran to Tommy in his pick-me-up motion, and Tommy did pick him up. Teddy then pointed the way to Valentine's tomatoes, saying, "There are a bunch of them, but she taught me how to dig them up."

 

The skateboarders followed Tommy and Teddy.

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