The Singular They

by Nov 17, 2011Linguistics2 comments

Reasonable, clear, straightforward, and admirably brief (and it even quotes the KJV):

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  1. Javier Caballero

    I just had to smile near the end when she began giving the gender balanced sentence. Excellent point!

    I wonder why she remained silent and forced the viewer to read the Scripture she used as an example?

  2. Brian Collins

    Here is Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (2010): “The singular “they.” A singular antecedent requires a singular referent pronoun. Because he is no longer accepted as a generic pronoun referring to a person of either sex, it has become common in speech and in informal writing to substitute the third-person plural pronouns they, them, their, and themselves, and the nonstandard singular themself. While this usage is accepted in casual contexts, it is still considered ungrammatical in formal writing. Avoiding the plural form by alternating masculine and feminine pronouns is awkward and only emphasizes the inherent problem of not having a generic third-person pronoun. Employing an artificial form such as s/he is distracting at best, and most readers find it ridiculous. There are several better ways to avoid the problem. For [215//216] example, use the traditional, formal he or she, him or her, his or her, himself or herself. Stylistically, this device is usually awkward or even stilted, but if used sparingly it can be functional. For other techniques, see 5.225.” §5.46 (pp. 215-16).


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