The Post Accepts Singular ‘They’

Illustration by Melanie Nesteruk
Illustration by Melanie Nesteruk

It’s official, tell all the grammar police in your life, the singular they is now accepted as grammatically correct by style manual. This is big news for people employing the use of in their day to day life. Not only will this eliminate the clunky and expositional he/she and he or she often seen in formal writing. Genderqueer people everywhere will no longer need to defend the grammatical agendas of their pronouns. Although many dictionaries, such as Oxford, Merriam-Webster and Cambridge, have already defined they as a singular/neutral pronoun, the language used in major journalist venues helps to influence discourse in society. Most importantly, they is being recognized as a gender neutral pronoun for anyone whose gender falls outside the binary. The Washington Post grammar geek Bill Walsh released an excerpt from his memo to the newsroom:

It is usually possible, and preferable, to recast sentences as plural to avoid both the sexist and antiquated universal default to male pronouns and the awkward use of he or she, him or her and the like: All students must complete their homework, not Each student must complete his or her homework.

When such a rewrite is impossible or hopelessly awkward, however, what is known as “the singular they” is permissible: Everyone has their own opinion about the traditional grammar rule. The singular they is also useful in references to people who identify as neither male nor female.

This is just one more step forward in empowering and increasing the visibility of gender-neutral people. Now you too can avoid unnecessary gendering with the best, and abandon your fear of a grammar faux pas!

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