You might think me a bit obsessional, but it's a common problem and confuses readers.

If you want more clarity in your writing, ban the ‘unaccompanied this’.

An example is the best way to explain what I mean.

‘We contacted the customer and wrote to the company’s chief executive, Jane Smith. It was the second time we have done this about the same complaint.’

What does this mean? Was it writing to the customer, Jane Smith, or both? Even if you thought you knew, you were probably distracted for at least a moment while you confirmed your opinion. Maybe you tried to supress your doubts as you read on.

I once introduced a similar example to an in-house team. It took them eight seconds to tell me what they thought this referred too, and even then they disagreed.

This should not be allowed out alone. This pen? This Saturday? No problem. Each has a mate and is perfectly clear.

Let’s be frank

The unaccompanied this is lazy writing and a poor service to our readers.

Add a mate or reconstruct your sentences to achieve more clarity.

‘We contacted the customer and wrote to the company’s chief executive, Jane Smith. It was the second time we had written to her about the same complaint.’