DISCLAIMER: What follows is a discussion of grammar rules. Please be advised that reading can cause extreme drowsiness. Please do not read while operating heavy machinery.
Steerpike (hope you don't mind me setting you up as the other side of this discussion) and I have a fundamental disagreement on pronoun use. Lately, I've been trying to see if I like his viewpoint better than mine, but I'm not sure.
Here's the issue:
I think that you should consider the following clearly defined grammar rule regarding pronoun/antecedent usage -
Example: Grab the soda and the hammer and put it in the refrigerator.A pronoun should have only one antecedent. That antecedent should be clear and unmistakable.
In this sentence, "it" can refer to either the soda or the hammer. Therefore, by rule, the above sentence is wrong.
Steerpike (I'm giving his side of the argument from memory, so I hope I got it right) says that it's okay to use the pronoun if the antecedent is contextually clear.
Hence, in the above example, Steerpike would presumably say that, since it doesn't make any sense to put a hammer in the refrigerator, the sentence is fine.
So, which is better, my way or Steerpike's?
I think that my way helps avoid the possibility of confusion. For the above sentence, what if I had used "screwdriver" instead of "hammer?" You may think that it's silly to put a screwdriver in the fridge, but what if I meant a mixed alcoholic drink instead of a tool when using the word?
On the other hand, if you eliminate every possible source of pronoun confusion, your writing is going to get clunky indeed. Take this for example:
John walked over to Bob. Bob shook his hand.
Does Bob shake his own hand or John's? Grammatically speaking, we have no way of knowing. Contextually, it makes no sense for Bob to shake his own hand.
John walked over to Bob. Bob shook John's hand.
IMO, this is much clunkier. I'd rather only use each name once in the two sentences combined.
Anyway, what say you?