I Hate Pronouns

Misunderstandings, even small ones, can result in thousands of hours of wasted work. It is really important in our field that we clearly communicate. One common source of misunderstanding is the pronoun. I would encourage you to listen to how often people use “it”, “that and “them”. I have made it a habit to ask my direct reports not to use pronouns, to explicitly state by name the people, places and things to which or whom they are referring.

Pronouns recently got the President in trouble. Trying to borrow a page from the Elizabeth Warren playbook the President recently said:

“Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Many conservatives believe that “that” is referring to the “your business” as in “You didn’t build your business. Somebody else made your business happen.

Supporters of the President are saying that the “that” is referring to the “roads and bridges that the business benefits from” as in “You didn’t build the roads and bridges that support your business. Somebody else made the roads and bridges happen.”

I am NOT going to engage in a political debate, so don’t even bother leaving a comment about the political context. I am just saying that this was an ambiguous statement. The type of ambiguous statement that can result in a failed project or political campaign. Clarity is important. It is important to craft  messages carefully and clearly to get the desired result.

One thought on “I Hate Pronouns

  1. The CEO of a company I used to work for that developed the QNXT claims administration platform used to scream at people who used pronouns. “Don’t use pronouns! I don’t know who ‘they’ are!”

    The first time Dave Engert said this to me I was shocked but I learned a great lesson.

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