Can I repeatedly use the same subject to start several sentences in a paragraph that describes a process? Does it build continuity or become redundant?

For example:

A passenger arrived. He entered the station. The passenger was checked by government agents. The passenger left the station.

  • 5
    It's a stylistic decision on the part of the author. – Hot Licks Dec 29 '15 at 17:33
  • I second the above comment. It's a stylistic choice. As to whether it builds continuity or is redundant, I don't think it's necessary for continuity, but definitely becomes redundant if you use it at the beginning of every sentence and aren't intending for it to be rhetorical. – Adam Dec 29 '15 at 17:38
  • To take the idea that it's a stylistic option farther - why would you want to use a style like that? The general rule of writing is that all you can break all of the rules as long as you have a good enough reason. It doesn't mean your audience will thank you for it, but if you simply MUST have a repetition or your artistic sensibilities will be offended, then go for it. If you're asking if people will be annoyed by it, then the answer is, "Probably." – DoWhileNot Dec 30 '15 at 20:08

To a certain degree, the answer is "both." Repeating the same subject in each of several sentences in a paragraph does have the ability to build continuity, but it can also get rather repetitive (and thus boring to the reader). I wouldn't say that it's redundant, per se, unless you actually repeat the semantics of one sentence in a following sentence.

This is the beauty of pronouns, which allow you to use a word other than the same noun phrase over and over. You can also break up your writing with synonyms, introductory prepositional phrases and modifiers, use of compound sentences, and so forth. For example:

A passenger arrived; he entered the train station. Immediately, he was checked by government agents, after which the disgruntled traveler promptly left the station.

On the other hand, there are valid reasons for specifically repeating words from one sentence in a following sentence; usually this is a deliberate rhetorical device to reinforce the parallels and connection between the sentences.

At the end of the day, it's a stylistic choice on the part of the writer. There is nothing grammatically wrong with what you have written, but you'll want to be conscious of how the reader will accept it.

EDIT: You mentioned that this is part of a "process." Documentation that describes processes, including manuals, handbooks, and so forth, are far more likely to eschew narrative flow in favor of clarity and the lack of redundancy. Thus, if the purpose is to capture a specific sequence of unambiguous steps, then the repetition of the noun phrase is usually viewed much more favorably, especially in a numbered list. For example, suppose you were writing the process for travelers going through security:

  1. The passenger takes off his shoes and coat.
  2. The passenger places all small items (watch, wallet, etc.) in an available container.
  3. The passenger places all suitcases on the x-ray machine belt.

Note that the fact that this is a numbered list (or bullet list) is significant, because it specifically is not attempting to serve as narrative.

This may also be a good question for the Writers Stack Exchange.

  • I liked the ending... The list form is how memories are stored in the brain. The narrative form is how we transfer memories from brain to brain. Narratives use pronouns and articles to compress the data for transfer. Without compression the transfer becomes tedious. – AmI Dec 29 '15 at 19:46

As described by Nonnal, it is less of a rule than a subjective guideline. Pronouns reduce redundancy and make a paragraph flow more easily. The use of the subject repeatedly will only draw more attention to the subject and not the actions or dialogue the subject is performing.

As such, this can be used for that very purpose, but I personally would class it under a writing style to only use very occasionally, at least for narrative.

I find that using the subject roughly every 1 to 2 paragraphs is enough to keep a reader informed about who the pronouns are referring to, obviously depending on the context of the sentences and the number of characters in a scene.

While this question is about repeating a subject, here's an example of mine of the use of pronouns only after the first use of the subject in the preceding paragraph.

"I can't believe that Jank," thought Skye angrily. "When I get back I'm going to kill him."

Her grav bike was nearby, realising where she'd stopped after looking at her locator. Relieved, she sat down for a drink and to calm down a little. She couldn't here the strangers any longer and paid more attention to the sounds of the forest. The canopy was thick and only occasional flecks of sunlight shone directly onto the ground. Birds she'd never heard before sung throughout the canopy. She had never been to this area on the planet and always loved the idea of visiting somewhere new.

In this example, you're only dealing with one character after others have been removed from the scene, so we really only need a very occasional reference to the character's name.

I'd be interested to see an example of your repeated use of the subject in context.

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