The UVic Writer's Guide


Beware of the undefended this, one of the most common usage errors in essay writing. This is a demonstrative adjective that is excessively vague unless it is followed by the noun it modifies. In the following excerpt from a student essay , the writer has left "this" dangling:

Tom, the son, desperately seeks to escape from home to follow his father's adventurous lifestyle. This is suggested by his continuous attendance to the movies.

Though the general sense can often be determined, in this case the reader would be justified in asking, "This what is suggested? The desperation, the seeking, the following?" Left without a noun, "This" could refer generally to the preceding word, sentence, paragraph, or even chapter. In this case, the writer might put "This desire is suggested by. . ."

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated April 19, 1995