Language: Avoid writing “he/she”

18 05 2011

Using “he/she” in your writing looks clumsy and inelegant.

Personally, I use “they” as the gender neutral pronoun, even if I’m using it as a singular (rather than plural) pronoun. Oxford Dictionaries explains it as follows:

The word they (with its counterparts them, their, and themselves) as a singular pronoun to refer to a person of unspecified sex has been used since at least the 16th century. In the late 20th century, as the traditional use of he to refer to a person of either sex came under scrutiny on the grounds of sexism, this use of they became more common. It is now generally accepted in contexts where it follows an indefinite pronoun such as anyone, no one, someone, or a person, as in anyone can join if they are a resident and each to their own. In other contexts, coming after singular nouns, the use of they is now common, though less widely accepted, especially in formal contexts. Sentences such asask a friend if theycould helpare still criticized for being ungrammatical. Nevertheless, in view of the growing acceptance of they and its obvious practical advantages, they is used in this dictionary in many cases where he would have been used formerly.


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