General Writing and Grammar Help/Fiction - Use her or the?


I'm helping a friend with his writing. This is a fiction piece. He often uses "her" instead of "the."


She made her way into her small, dark bedroom, carefully stepping over mounds of books and papers that were stacked on her floor.

... noticing her small propane heater had at last warmed her and her small apartment.

and others:
- clothes that would not fit into her closet
- her one-bedroom apartment
- the headboard of her bed
- she tried to avoid looking at her antiquated four-burner stove

Using "her" seems to make the story more personal, while using "the" makes it more distant, more objective. Is this a personal preference issue or a poor writing issue?

And Happy New Year!


Hi Peggy,

As a published author I can say that there isn't anything inherently wrong with this practice. If he were writing an academic research paper or something along those lines, then he might prefer to use "the". However, fictional stories are all about relationships. And the environment itself can be a character, so the character's relationship with their environments is also important. Specifying that it is her apartment does make a significant difference to the way that the story is being told as it provides a key insight into the character and her personality; she values the things in her life. If she simply thought of her apartment as any old other apartment, then that would suggest that she, herself, really doesn't care. Think about how you refer to your own things. Do you call it your house or the house? I personally use my house a lot (although admittedly sometimes I do tell my friends to come over to the house). The inclusion of the word her, while a subtle difference, is a key insight to her behavior and motivations. It tells the reader that this character is emotionally driven. Where this might be bad is if the use of the word her is too prolific and it begins to detract from the story.

For example:
She made her way into her small, dark bedroom, carefully stepping over mounds of books and papers that were stacked on the floor.

Each bedroom has a floor, and as this floor is located in the bedroom that was already established as being hers it's not really necessary to define the floor as hers also. As a writer he's going to want to find that balance between providing insight into his character through word choice and not being overly-annoying with a specific word. It's something that each writer struggles with and it's something that others can pick out more easily. I, for example, over used ellipses. I don't know why I did it, but it happens. It might be that he's not even aware that he's using her that often.

Kind Regards,

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Johnathan Clayborn


I can answer a broad range of questions about both academic and creative writing. I can answer questions about APA format, research and references, essay structure and more. I am particularly helpful in the areas of character development, storyline development, etc. and I can provide authors with an array of tools to help them organize their work.


I minored in English for my Bachelor's degree. I have also written several books and I run a small publishing company (before you ask, we're not accepting submissions at this time). I have written both fiction and non-fiction books and I have been published in newspapers and written articles for major internet websites.

Alpha Chi, Psi Chi, Kappa Delta Pi, APA

MS, Educational Psychology, BS Psychology (English minor)

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