use of he/she/they

Subject: use of he/she/they
From: Scott Herron <sherr19 -at- IDT -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 1997 09:27:25 -0400

I may be a bit late coming in on this, but -

> From: Barclay Blanchard <bblancha -at- HALIS -dot- COM>

> I've been mixing up the singular pronouns in my documents,
> using "she" sometimes and "he" others (most often "she"),
> and have been asked to change all of them to "they."

> It goes against the grain for me to use a plural pronoun that
> has a singular antecedent.

> I could rewrite so that there are no singular antecedents, but
> in some cases this may be clumsy.

> How do those of you who are "gender aware/sensitive" handle
> this?

As it happens. . .

I've written a little advisory monograph on the topic, a sort of
update/boildown of Miller & Swift's _Handbook_of_Non-Sexist_Writing_
[written in 1980, a little out-of-date, but still useful when you run
out of ideas]. You can find Miller & Swift at the nearest college
bookstore. You can find my article at

I offer several strategies for recasting the same sentence, depending on
context. The last section should allay any fears about plural pronouns
with singular antecedents. The advice therein may be "old hat" to
you[all], but the orig. intended audience is not TWs per se, but people
who _hire_ TWs.

In a nutshell, go ahead and use "they." It's not only becoming
increasingly acceptable, there are numerous citations from "quality
authors" in all historical eras from J. Chaucer on. So, help us propel
the [r]evolution. I can't see why a syntactic mismatch for number is
_more_wrong_ than a reality mismatch for the gender of you audience.
Remember, as writers, we address our audience in retail fashion, one
reader at a time. Each one puts themselves <wink> in the context.


BTW, there's also a brief natural history of the "@" sign at

Uh, and both articles are kinda long.


Scott Herron | sherr19 -at- idt -dot- net

That "deep thoughts" bit at the bottom.

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