He, She, One, They

Maybe you are just like me.

Maybe you read while you brush your teeth.

Or maybe your neckhair prickles in irritation when you read “they” latched to a singular verb or antecedent, as some kind but misguided verbacist attempts to avoid using “he” as a universal, generic pronoun.

Prickle not. The tides are turning, cousin.

The “he” to “she” pronoun ratio in publications has sunk from 4.5:1 all the way down to 2:1!!!!!

Just use “she,” people. Or if you must use “they,” please remember to make the verb plural! Get that ratio to 1:1.

Do it for the children.

The Rise of She: What a Shift in Gendered Pronouns Means.

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5 thoughts on “He, She, One, They

  1. Laura says:

    I’ve often seen “they” used to refer to one person, but never have I seen “they” coupled with a singular verb. Whatever are you reading?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks for the comment!

      In “regular” writing: in business, in student essays, on tv. In spoken language. I observe it so routinely that I start to feel like one of those elitist bygone-times grammar jerks who can’t accept that language evolves.

      I guess it would be more common in a clause modifying a singular verb, now that I’m thinking about it. Or in something like “a person may want to eat ice cream, but they should exercise instead.”

      Haven’t you seen this?

      • Laura says:

        In your example — “they should exercise instead” — the verb “should” is correct, but you might feel that “they” is incorrect because it’s a plural pronoun with a singular antecedent. But there’s nothing wrong with the verb. Examples of a singular verb with “they” would be: They is going to the store. They asks too many questions. As to your “clause modifying a singular verb,” I just can’t think of an example of that and don’t believe I’ve ever seen or heard one. Maybe we’re not talking about the same parts of speech.

  2. Inder says:

    This is a bit of a struggle in my biz. My boss doesn’t like “she” but to give him credit, he doesn’t like “he” or “they” much either. He likes, kill me now, “he or she,” and “him or her” inserted into EVERY SINGLE APPLICABLE SPOT, until I’m desperate to make sentences passive in order to avoid the issue. Sigh.

    The “they” approach is very common in legal writing, sadly. I’ve even seen it in statutes, memorialized in the actual law. Sometimes I almost feel sympathetic when I see it, knowing that you could never say “she” in a statute (not precise enough!) and knowing how difficult it is to structure every damn sentence around “he or she” (see above).

    At least I only rarely see s/he these days. Shudder.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Laura, yes, I do prefer consistency across the whole great yawn of a sentence. Thanks for stopping by!

      Inder, so what you’re saying is you don’t see “zie” or “hir” or the other transgender pronouns in a statute?

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