Pronoun Policy

I will accept using she to correct longstanding gender bias so long as we can use he to correct longstanding gender biases in the other direction, for example nurses and wives and damsels in distress. If this seems unreasonable then I’ll gladly accept simply using they whenever gender is indeterminate.

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@retep998 While that would be OK in theory, I think it’s almost certain to lead to a new debate over every single case. A policy of always using ‘they’ can at least be implemented objectively, and there’s no danger of a particular case being considered discriminatory or biased. Having an easy-to-follow/difficult-to-misinterpret policy is important for everyone.

Generally speaking with regards to pronouns, I prefer they, as the most inclusive option. (And yes, singular they is grammatically correct (even Chaucer and Shakespeare used it!), and has been since at least the 14th century.)

The issue with he/she is threefold.

  1. He/she enforces the gender binary and excludes people who don't fit into either group. Especially when they is such a natural and easy word to use, it doesn't make sense to avoid it.
  2. He/she is just plain awkward to use and read! You're not gonna find many people who actually say he/she in real life.
  3. Have you ever noticed that it's always he/she? It's never she/he, is it? Men always seem to come first for some reason. But she/he has its own problems; I would rather just sidestep the issue of "who comes first" entirely.

Though I don't have particularly strong feelings about this PR (whatever it ends up being, I'm fine with it), I feel that they is best both from an inclusiveness standpoint as well as a consistency standpoint, both within this page and across the book as a whole, which uses they throughout.

This was mentioned in the other thread:

To me, this is misleading. To paraphrase, the argument is:

Because I suggested feminine pronouns, anyone who weighs in in support of neutral pronouns must have a double standard against feminine pronouns vs. masculine, because no one objected to the masculine pronouns but they're objecting to the feminine ones.

But this ignores the fact that this issue wasn't even brought to our attention before this PR. Had I known about this issue, I would support they regardless of whether or not feminine pronouns had been suggested, because neither masculine nor feminine pronouns are maximally inclusive.


If a Rustacean wishes to use a pronoun, one can use "one" as a pronoun":

It is a gender-neutral, indefinite pronoun, meaning roughly "a person".

Using it with the original example in this thread:

"The person you mentioned, are they coming to dinner with us?"

"The person you mentioned, is that one coming to dinner with us?"

Though, in this case, it may be best to reorder the sentence into "Is the person you mentioned coming to dinner with us?"

As a native speaker, I would not consider the use of “one” as a definite pronoun grammatical (except when paired with a previous “one”) - or at least I don’t remember ever having seen it before. “That one” is different but is always used to pick one out of a set of others, unlike in your second example, and in any case using it to refer to a person is very distant.

“They” is much better.

(i’m a fan of Spivak pronouns [original version - e em eir], but i doubt they will ever get even semi-mainstream acceptance)

I love "one" and use it everywhere possible (it's so much better than "you" when writing blog posts); but it doesn't substitute "s/he", "he or she", or "they" in all cases.


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