19 votes

Topic deleted by author

50 comments

  1. [26]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    I can speak a bit to this! I’m not someone who uses the term anymore, but I used to. It was actually part of my formal training! Part of my college path involved taking classes in technical...
    • Exemplary

    I can speak a bit to this! I’m not someone who uses the term anymore, but I used to. It was actually part of my formal training!

    Part of my college path involved taking classes in technical writing and editing. There’s a parallel universe where I leveraged these skills alongside a nascent tech boom to make myself very wealthy and not a public school teacher, but that is neither here nor there.

    Anyway, there was a particular technical editing course (for things like guides, textbooks, etc.) that was among the better classes I have ever taken. We applied different lenses to texts and learned all of the different ways in which you need to look at them in order to process them as an editor.

    At the time, one of the biggest things we had to look at was gender neutrality (which is not a bad thing!), and it could be achieved in one of the following ways:

    • You could balance the composition of genders across a work (i.e. use an equal number of male and female examples)
    • You could avoid gendered language altogether (e.g. writing in second person, using “one” as in “one must always remember...”)
    • You could use “he/she” whenever the other two options are unsuitable

    Each approach has its pros and cons, and we looked at when each method would be most appropriate and what the pitfalls are. For example, the first method produces the most natural sounding language, but you also have to subject the text to an additional gender-based edit to avoid bias with regards to the specified roles. Because neutrality is the ideal, you can’t have all of the male references be stereotypically masculine and all of the female references stereotypically feminine. The third option routes around this entirely, but constant he/she and him/her usage inhibits flow, which isn’t ideal either. One of the most interesting things about the class was learning about the push and pull between all the different factors that affect a text. Fixing one thing could easily create a new problem when looked at with a different lens.

    This is the case with gender neutrality, and why the singular “they” wasn’t even a consideration. While the class focused on higher-level content editing, we also of course dove into grammar and spelling as well, which were backed by very rigid rules. As editors, it was our job to basically ensure syntactic and grammatical perfection prior to publishing.

    At the time, the singular “they” would have been anathema due to a perceived number error. This is why “he/she” was the preferred language for certain circumstances. If I had used “they are” at the time in place of “he/she is” I would have been dinged for creating an unnecessary plural, and if I had used “they is” I would have been dinged for subject/verb disagreement. Because we were focused primarily on technical works, precision was of the utmost importance and there wasn’t really any wiggle room the way that you would get with other types of writing like fiction or poetry.

    It doesn’t read like this from today’s perspective, but the ideal of gender neutrality was actually quite progressive. It came about because of, well, a profound history of distinctly non-neutral language. If your math textbook only ever has problems where people like Sally, Betty, and Josephine bake cookies while Ben, Max, and Jacob lift weights, your textbook is imparting a cultural weight to gender, even if unintended.

    We also examined texts for other aspects of cultural bias as well. Racial sensitivity was a huge part of the class too, and we examined how, if you only ever have people like Sally, Betty, and Josephine, you are leaving out people like Devanshi, Thuong, and Neveah. The paradigms we examined are the kind that often get pushback for being “politically correct” or promoting “forced diversity”, but within the context of the class, it was essential that technical texts be value neutral as much as possible.

    At the beginning of each class, the professor would have us read an excerpt from an actual published work that had some sort of error in it. She would give us the excerpt without telling us what the error was, and we had to try to figure it out. Sometimes it was a language error, like a misplaced modifier, and sometimes it was a thematic or bias error. Not all of them were technical texts, as was the case when she opened class with a rather steamy excerpt from a romance novel. We were all a little in shock as we read the rather explicit paragraphs, but, after several awkward minutes, not a single one of us could identify the error. The professor had to point it out to us, at which point it became incredibly obvious. The main character removed her bra twice. She took it off toward the beginning and then, a few paragraphs later, without any mention of her putting it back on, she removed it again. Because the heat of the passage pulled our focus, everyone in the room missed a very obvious continuity error.

    The professor explained that we had to be able to read texts neutrally in order to maintain correctness and precision in our language, and that can get difficult unless you specifically practice at it. Furthermore, you have to understand the biases your audience will read your text with and anticipate that. We all missed the error, but anyone who didn’t would have been pulled right out of the heat of that moment in the text, making the romance novel less effective as a text for its intended purpose. Attending to bias, and in particular using gender neutral language, was a way of ensuring that you weren’t saying anything you didn’t intend to with your text, as well as ensuring that people wouldn’t read anything into it that they shouldn’t.

    I have no doubt that, were I to take the course today, “he/she” not only wouldn’t be preferred language, but it would actually be considered actively insensitive given its use as/proximity to a slur for trans people. Furthermore, I have no doubt that sensitivity to trans readers would be part of our bias lens. It definitely wasn’t at the time though (we didn’t discuss bias with regards to any other queer identities either). In the push and pull of editing forces today, the weight of being insensitive to trans people would far outweigh the number issue brought up by the singular they.

    As such, in a long answer to your original question, I think “he/she” is a relic of what was once was a pretty progressive position: the idea that gender neutral language has value in the first place. It’s dated by today’s standards, and I can definitely get how frustrating it can be to see when we have such a suitable replacement. I’m a huge fan of “they” and I use “they” in all of my school paperwork so I don’t accidentally misgender a child (but also because it makes copy/pasting common language SO much easier!). But, I will admit that it wasn’t that long ago that I used “he/she”, and the conceptual place it came from was one that was equally affirming in intent.

    47 votes
    1. [9]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [8]
        kfwyre
        Link Parent
        I also wonder if some of it isn’t rooted in education. I was explicitly taught grammar and syntax as part of my K-12 education. We diagrammed sentences and every essay I ever turned in came back...

        I also wonder if some of it isn’t rooted in education. I was explicitly taught grammar and syntax as part of my K-12 education. We diagrammed sentences and every essay I ever turned in came back with red ink all over it noting every technical error I’d made.

        All of that is very much out of the standards and out of vogue in American education now. I have mixed feelings about this, but I can’t help but wonder if some of the appreciable fluidity of today’s language comes from a generation who didn’t have rigid rules drilled into them.

        I used to think that “they” was incontrovertibly plural, but I had my “aha” moment when someone pointed out that we are perfectly fine with using it in the case of a unknown antecedent:

        Who was that at the door?

        I don’t know; I didn’t see them.

        This is perfectly natural, and in fact I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would say “I didn’t see him or her” conversationally.

        As soon as I realized this, my position softened on “they” which was actually a relief! I always hated how badly “he/she” inhibited flow and readability.

        15 votes
        1. Bwerf
          Link Parent
          Minor nitpick, while I agree that they can be a very natural singular pronoun in some cases (that even people that disagree strongly with singular they use without thinking of it). In this case we...

          Minor nitpick, while I agree that they can be a very natural singular pronoun in some cases (that even people that disagree strongly with singular they use without thinking of it). In this case we also have an unknown amount of people at the door, which may not make it the best example. There could easily have been more than one person at the door.

          8 votes
        2. [4]
          Thra11
          Link Parent
          I think what we're looking at here is a common English word usage which certain prescriptivists have decided they don't like for whatever reason (starting in the 1800s). Unfortunately, some of...

          I think what we're looking at here is a common English word usage which certain prescriptivists have decided they don't like for whatever reason (starting in the 1800s). Unfortunately, some of these prescriptivists appear to have had a lot of power, being in the position to influence the school syllabus in the US and possibly elsewhere too. This leads to an unfortunate situation in which children's education isn't consistent with their real world experience of English, or even the rest of their education. They get told in one class that singular they is to be avoided. Then in the next class they see Shakespeare held up as a paragon of literary genius despite his use of singular they.

          It's a bit like "You shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition". It's a rule of Latin grammar which some prescriptivists have tried to teach as though it were a rule of English grammar. Either you just end up with a bunch of confused people who have difficulty reconciling their grammar lessons with real English, or you get a clique of people playing a game called "not ending a sentence with a preposition" and looking down on those who have better things to do with their time.

          For what it's worth, singular they is perfectly idiomatic in my British English dialect, and I have never been taught otherwise.

          8 votes
          1. [2]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. Thra11
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              South West England. I say my British English dialect because I don't know whether my experience is representative of the whole of the UK. It might not even be representative of the area I grew up...

              South West England.

              I say my British English dialect because I don't know whether my experience is representative of the whole of the UK. It might not even be representative of the area I grew up in. Maybe if I grew up in a different decade, went to a different school, or simply had a different teacher, I might have been taught something different.

              5 votes
          2. [2]
            joplin
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            There are some things up with which we should not put!.

            It's a bit like "You shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition".

            There are some things up with which we should not put!.

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              Comment deleted by author
              Link Parent
              1. joplin
                Link Parent
                Yeah, I don't know what happened to the "up". I swear I typed it, so either I imagined it or it got auto-corrected away because I mistyped it or something. Corrected.

                Yeah, I don't know what happened to the "up". I swear I typed it, so either I imagined it or it got auto-corrected away because I mistyped it or something. Corrected.

                1 vote
        3. DanBC
          Link Parent
          There's also a bunch of idiom that use "they" as either singular or plural. "The bigger they are, they harder they fall".

          There's also a bunch of idiom that use "they" as either singular or plural. "The bigger they are, they harder they fall".

          5 votes
        4. TheRtRevKaiser
          Link Parent
          I completely agree, and I think that the singular "they" is probably the best solution for a gender-neutral pronoun in English. Other proposed solutions exist, but they all face the difficult...

          I completely agree, and I think that the singular "they" is probably the best solution for a gender-neutral pronoun in English. Other proposed solutions exist, but they all face the difficult problem of persuading enough English speakers and writers to adopt them that they become a part of the broader landscape of the language. Whereas the singular "they" had the advantage of already being in broad use colloquially, especially in instances like you pointed out where the antecedent was unknown.

          I will say that the mental adjustment is and has not always been completely smooth for me. I've read a few articles, in particular in cases where a person that prefers they/them as their pronoun and the story is describing their interaction with a group of people, where it gets more difficult to determine whether the antecedent of they/them is the group or the individual. However, I think this is probably just something that writers now need to be conscious of, just like if they were using a gendered pronoun when there are more than one possible antecedents of that gender. Writers will continue to learn to consider unclear antecedents when using they/them just like they do now with she/her and he/him.

          4 votes
    2. Bwerf
      Link Parent
      About the balanced use of him/her: I've seen roleplaying books use her to refer to the DM and him to refer to a player consistently just to make it easier to distinguish between the roles, with a...

      About the balanced use of him/her: I've seen roleplaying books use her to refer to the DM and him to refer to a player consistently just to make it easier to distinguish between the roles, with a comment about it in the introduction of the book. That felt very natural for me to read.

      6 votes
    3. [11]
      Adys
      Link Parent
      I always found the "he/she vs. they" debate in the English language super weird, given that I, a French native, was explained the concept of "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun in English class...

      I always found the "he/she vs. they" debate in the English language super weird, given that I, a French native, was explained the concept of "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun in English class when I was like, 13. If I was taught this so early, wouldn't it be in very common use in the anglosphere?

      For context, in French, we explicitly use the masculine pronoun as gender-neutral. Changing this would be unthinkable as it would break grammar. But we do use an equivalent of "he/she" when gender-neutrality is important and it's not explicit that "he" is the gender-neutral kind. Hard to explain.

      We also have a plural version of both "he" and "she", and the same applies there, masculine is usable as gender-neutral. We also do not have a gender-specific possessive, as our possessives take the gender of the subject, not of the genitive. For example, "table" is feminine and "desk" is masculine. If english worked the same way, Bob's table would be "her table", Alice's desk would be "his desk", and when referring to both together you would be referring to "her[plural] pieces of furniture".

      Maybe this is why I don't get what the big deal is in gender-neutral grammar. I mean obviously, use "they/their" as it's correct, moreso than he/she, and English unequivocally does not have a gender-neutral he.

      5 votes
      1. [3]
        TheRtRevKaiser
        Link Parent
        That is true now, but it has not always been true. There was a period in the history of the English language that "he" was considered the gender neutral pronoun.

        English unequivocally does not have a gender-neutral he.

        That is true now, but it has not always been true. There was a period in the history of the English language that "he" was considered the gender neutral pronoun.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          hungariantoast
          Link Parent
          Just a few years ago, in a college writing class, I was taught specifically to use "he" and not "they" for gender neutrality. This was enforced in the grading of assignments. 🤷♂️

          Just a few years ago, in a college writing class, I was taught specifically to use "he" and not "they" for gender neutrality. This was enforced in the grading of assignments.

          🤷‍♂️

          3 votes
          1. TheRtRevKaiser
            Link Parent
            Ooof. I went to a conservative christian university more than a decade ago and even there we were usually told to try and write around needing to use pronouns if possible when gender was unknown...

            Ooof. I went to a conservative christian university more than a decade ago and even there we were usually told to try and write around needing to use pronouns if possible when gender was unknown or ambiguous, or to use the indefinite personal pronoun (e.g. "One should use the indefinite pronoun when one is writing about a person of unknown or ambiguous gender") but I could never really bring myself to do that.

            I'm guessing that your college class was using Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style which apparently still recommends masculine pronouns in those situations. I think a lot of other style guides are coming around to some version of the singular "they" but those types of manuals for formal writing are usually pretty conservative about adopting linguistic innovation.

            I found this blog post really interesting and informative in regards to the current state of Gender Neutral and Non-Binary "they" in various style guides. Also the name of the blog is a fun pun...

            3 votes
      2. [7]
        kfwyre
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I'm glad you brought this up, as something I've always wondered about is the divergence between grammatical gender and gender as identity as it exists in languages besides English. English's use...

        I'm glad you brought this up, as something I've always wondered about is the divergence between grammatical gender and gender as identity as it exists in languages besides English. English's use of gender pretty much lines up almost precisely with societal understandings of gender, which is why I think there is a very strong focus on inclusive language for LGBT people in English. In French, as you identified however, gender not only diverges significantly from lived experience (feminine tables and masculine desks), but it is also codified into the language via agreement. Do you see similar pushes for gender neutrality, inclusive language, and emphasis on pronouns in French? Would advocating for such even make sense given how the language is constructed and used?

        3 votes
        1. [6]
          Adys
          Link Parent
          On pronouns, no, and it's not so much that it wouldn't make sense but the current system is so deeply, deeply ingrained that nobody really thinks about gender when using "he", and pushing for a...

          Do you see similar pushes for gender neutrality, inclusive language, and emphasis on pronouns in French? Would advocating for such even make sense given how the language is constructed and used?

          On pronouns, no, and it's not so much that it wouldn't make sense but the current system is so deeply, deeply ingrained that nobody really thinks about gender when using "he", and pushing for a gender-neutral version of it is suuuuuper weird. And keep in mind that French, unlike English, is codified by an academy. This makes changes to the grammar itself much less likely.

          We do have such pushes in a few nouns though, where we used to only have a masculine type. For example we used to have a gender-neutral-but-actually-masculine "Author", and there's been a push for "Authress" (Autrice) lately, as a parallel to Actor/Actress (Acteur / Actrice). Though some people are pushing for "Authore" (Auteure) instead and it's atrocious hah. I wouldn't be surprised if this change eventually permeates to English; "Authress" is a pretty noun. English used to have "Authoress" but that's no longer in use for some reason.

          3 votes
          1. [2]
            pseudochron
            Link Parent
            Actually I think English is moving in the opposite direction. There is a debate about whether the term "actress" is still appropriate or if "actor" is gender-neutral. Many women in comedy are not...

            I wouldn't be surprised if this change eventually permeates to English; "Authress" is a pretty noun.

            Actually I think English is moving in the opposite direction. There is a debate about whether the term "actress" is still appropriate or if "actor" is gender-neutral. Many women in comedy are not a fan of the term "comedienne" and would prefer to be referred to as a "comedian".

            3 votes
            1. Adys
              Link Parent
              Oh TIL. Also TIL about the word "comedienne", I've never heard that before.

              Oh TIL. Also TIL about the word "comedienne", I've never heard that before.

              1 vote
          2. [3]
            fandegw
            Link Parent
            As a french person too, I feel the French Academy is regularly talked to as a powerful entity concerning the vocabulary and grammar we use in francophone countries, but I feel its role is only an...

            And keep in mind that French, unlike English, is codified by an academy

            As a french person too, I feel the French Academy is regularly talked to as a powerful entity concerning the vocabulary and grammar we use in francophone countries, but I feel its role is only an empty shell for symbolism of "Le Français des Lettres". I feel it might as well not exists as it has zero influence on our daily usage of french.

            For all their updates of the french language, either they are pushed by changes in the words spoken by the "common people", like all the words concerning Internet.
            Or are totally ignored apart from the few journalists that want to appear as "lettrés", like the change from "le COVID" to "la COVID", which nobody respect in our daily life because it sounds a bit stupid.

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              Adys
              Link Parent
              Yeah making COVID feminine after it's been used as masculine for months was one of those hilarious "are you fucking kidding me" moves that nobody respects. Or asking for people to write "mél"...

              Yeah making COVID feminine after it's been used as masculine for months was one of those hilarious "are you fucking kidding me" moves that nobody respects. Or asking for people to write "mél" instead of email.

              I didn't mean to make them sound more important than they are but French really is less flexible than English, and I believe the Academy does have quite a bit of influence when it comes to grammar, making it a lot more rigid.

              2 votes
              1. fandegw
                Link Parent
                Maybe I've exaggerated a little bit on the zero influence (but I don't really write all that much in french, so I am less concerned by it) And if we go by the fact that this is a recurring theme...

                Maybe I've exaggerated a little bit on the zero influence (but I don't really write all that much in french, so I am less concerned by it)
                And if we go by the fact that this is a recurring theme to talk about when discussing the french language, like the many times in the Lingisticae channel, and its long video on it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfUsGmcr1PI).
                I suppose it has its presence felt.

                1 vote
    4. culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      Very interesting, and likely on the money. First time I've heard of Neveah, too.

      Very interesting, and likely on the money. First time I've heard of Neveah, too.

      3 votes
    5. [4]
      vord
      Link Parent
      This point in particular is best highlighted by Richard Stallman. 95% of all drama surrounding him is the fact that he does not tolerate these kind of errors in a wide variety of fields, and very...

      At the time, the singular “they” would have been anathema due to a perceived number error.

      This point in particular is best highlighted by Richard Stallman. 95% of all drama surrounding him is the fact that he does not tolerate these kind of errors in a wide variety of fields, and very few people recognize it as such, especially out of context.

      He suggested using per (short for person) as an inclusive alternative to he/she/they to avoid that particular problem, shame it didn't catch on because I consider it quite elegant.

      Virtually everything surrounding Epstein was him insisting on that kind of correctness regarding crime and reporting thereof.

      And I get it. I'll reject the definition change of "literally" until, literally, my dying breath for similar reasons.

      3 votes
      1. [3]
        TheRtRevKaiser
        Link Parent
        Prescriptivism in language is a hopeless endeavor. Words change meaning, and ironic inversion of words as an intensifier is nothing new. Peeving about people's use of language when it departs from...

        Prescriptivism in language is a hopeless endeavor. Words change meaning, and ironic inversion of words as an intensifier is nothing new. Peeving about people's use of language when it departs from "standard" English is often inadvertent, internalized racism, sexism, or classism. I want to note that I'm not trying to accuse you of this, just pointing out that "standard" or "correct" english generally represents nothing more than the way upper-class white men use the language, and enforcing that structure on other people groups can be problematic.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          vord
          Link Parent
          Even in that linked article, they acknowledge how sometimes (especially in written word), prescriptivism is useful. Writing law and scientific papers would be infinitely harder without it (see...

          Even in that linked article, they acknowledge how sometimes (especially in written word), prescriptivism is useful.

          Writing law and scientific papers would be infinitely harder without it (see also: why there's a lot of problems with interpretation of the Constitution). Sometimes this is problematic, like using loaded terminology to describe very different things. Sexual Assault is one such overly broad umbrella phrase which tends to evoke the strongest revulsion even for the most minor violations under that umbrella.

          Yes, the "they" example might be a touch classist, but it also breaks a useful construct/distinction which (to my knowledge) doesn't really have a good equivalent in common usage.

          Ain't/Y'all/(all profanity) being considered improper are 100% classist by contrast. They're basically just additions to what already exists, and only deemed improper by the upper class that deems them crass.

          5 votes
          1. TheRtRevKaiser
            Link Parent
            I do want to clarify that I agree that a level of prescriptivism is useful and probably even necessary in certain contexts, like those that you pointed out (law, science) and that is why you...

            I do want to clarify that I agree that a level of prescriptivism is useful and probably even necessary in certain contexts, like those that you pointed out (law, science) and that is why you generally have style guides like the Chicago manual, MLA, AP, etc. But for everything outside of the umbrella of formal writing, I think it's a lost cause (and really a misguided one) to try and be prescriptive about language, especially one as vibrant as English.

            2 votes
  2. [2]
    culturedleftfoot
    Link
    My guess that it boils down to convention more than anything else, for most people. Growing up I was taught that the singular they/their was ungrammatical, despite pretty widespread usage in speech.

    My guess that it boils down to convention more than anything else, for most people. Growing up I was taught that the singular they/their was ungrammatical, despite pretty widespread usage in speech.

    8 votes
    1. TheRtRevKaiser
      Link Parent
      I think this has probably only really started to change very recently. I'm in my early thirties and I was definitely taught that the singular they/their was ungrammatical. I was taught in various...

      I think this has probably only really started to change very recently. I'm in my early thirties and I was definitely taught that the singular they/their was ungrammatical. I was taught in various classes a mixture of "he or she", "one/one's/oneself etc, and the "gender neutral" masculine pronoun. I suspect that many schools still are not teaching the singular they.

      3 votes
  3. papasquat
    Link
    I usually just write "his or her". I think they sounds much clunkier personally. Probably just comes down to personal preference though.

    I usually just write "his or her". I think they sounds much clunkier personally. Probably just comes down to personal preference though.

    6 votes
  4. wcerfgba
    Link
    Like others here I also find "he / she" clunky. There is also "(s)he" but again this doesn't address the issue that I don't want to refer to someone's gender when that person is the subject or...

    Like others here I also find "he / she" clunky. There is also "(s)he" but again this doesn't address the issue that I don't want to refer to someone's gender when that person is the subject or object of a sentence unless their gender is specifically relevant to the context. The language is also inherently exclusionary to non-binary people and reinforces the gender binary. I also lean towards gender abolitionism so I prefer to use non-gendered pronouns to also demonstrate that we do not need to constantly refer to people's gender when we address or talk about or to them. For these reasons I usually go for "they", but when talking about a specific named person I am also experimenting with not using any pronouns and just using their first name, e.g. "John said that John made cookies". This feels a little clunky sometimes due to the repetition, but I think it also reinforces the personal connection.

    5 votes
  5. petrichor
    Link
    That's how grammar was taught in my primary school, basically. Our grammatical units back then consisted mostly of "pick the right answer" type questions that didn't exactly say that using "their"...

    That's how grammar was taught in my primary school, basically. Our grammatical units back then consisted mostly of "pick the right answer" type questions that didn't exactly say that using "their" as a third-person singular was wrong, but never had an option for it to be right.

    I personally use "their", but it's a habit I definitely picked up from reading outside the classroom. I do occasionally use "his or her" in situations of great ambiguity, when I'm talking about both a group of people and an individual at the same time, or (infrequently) when I know who the person could be.

    4 votes
  6. [2]
    bendersteed
    Link
    I'm not a native english speaker, so the plural seems quite strange to me. I don't really like the singular they pronoun. Mostly a matter of taste and linguistic confusion. Since in my language I...

    I'm not a native english speaker, so the plural seems quite strange to me. I don't really like the singular they pronoun. Mostly a matter of taste and linguistic confusion.
    Since in my language I can use the word person that is neutral, but I think this option is also available in english. Wording like "a person and its cat" is quite natural so I think it's a good sidestep. I also prefer the per pronouns, at least they are a new word and not a singular plural confusion.

    4 votes
    1. Staross
      Link Parent
      Coming from French it's also not very natural to use a neutral pronoun, since it's quite useless in French (because adjectives are gendered anyway).

      Coming from French it's also not very natural to use a neutral pronoun, since it's quite useless in French (because adjectives are gendered anyway).

      1 vote
  7. onelap32
    Link
    How old are you, out of curiosity? Singular "they" was seen as incorrect in formal writing until relatively recently (perhaps just a decade or two). It's possible this is just a matter of when one...

    How old are you, out of curiosity? Singular "they" was seen as incorrect in formal writing until relatively recently (perhaps just a decade or two). It's possible this is just a matter of when one grew up, much as the split between single spacing and double spacing after a period.

    I use singular "they", but I do find it frustrating to use because of the ambiguity. I wish one of the various proposed pronouns had caught on, rather than making "they" do double duty.

    4 votes
  8. rish
    Link
    Well I was not aware of singular use of they for a good part of my life. He/she was okay ish to refer to strangers.

    Well I was not aware of singular use of they for a good part of my life. He/she was okay ish to refer to strangers.

    3 votes
  9. mrbig
    Link
    I use such forms when I cannot find a more elegant way to express myself in inclusive terms.

    I use such forms when I cannot find a more elegant way to express myself in inclusive terms.

    3 votes
  10. simao
    Link
    In my native language it's correct to use "he/him" as default when you don't know the gender, so I did the same when talking writing English. My language also doesn't have an equivalent for...

    In my native language it's correct to use "he/him" as default when you don't know the gender, so I did the same when talking writing English. My language also doesn't have an equivalent for neutral pronouns like "they". Trying to change my ways now, but sometimes it creeps out of me.

    3 votes
  11. wycy
    Link
    Like most others, I was taught that singular "they/their" is grammatically incorrect, so I use "he/she" / "his/her". I do hope we can move towards more acceptance of the singular they, because...

    Like most others, I was taught that singular "they/their" is grammatically incorrect, so I use "he/she" / "his/her". I do hope we can move towards more acceptance of the singular they, because it's just so much easier.

    3 votes
  12. suspended
    Link
    I just resort to they/their.

    I just resort to they/their.

    12 votes
  13. [9]
    vord
    Link
    Setting aside that pronoun preference being very new in the scope of languages... Because it doesn't matter in the slightest to me. It's no skin off my back if someone mis-identifies me based on...

    Setting aside that pronoun preference being very new in the scope of languages...

    Because it doesn't matter in the slightest to me. It's no skin off my back if someone mis-identifies me based on my long hair, and I would hope everyone else develops thick enough skin to not care either.

    I certainly wouldn't intentionally mis-pronoun someone, but I'm gonna have to fight the urge to roll my eyes at anyone taking offense to it if I get it wrong when I don't know them.

    I probably tend more to he/him inadvertently just because I am a man, and I suspect women might do the same for she/her.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. vord
        Link Parent
        Thanks. Figured that out after a good night's sleep. Still generally applies, at least in spoken word and casual writing.

        Thanks. Figured that out after a good night's sleep.

        Still generally applies, at least in spoken word and casual writing.

    2. [4]
      Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      I think it's a bit unfair to characterize it in this fashion. I have never been addicted to a drug before, and I can easily say to addicts 'just have some self control'. I've certainly had other...

      I would hope everyone else develops thick enough skin to not care either.

      I think it's a bit unfair to characterize it in this fashion. I have never been addicted to a drug before, and I can easily say to addicts 'just have some self control'. I've certainly had other people tell me to just have a more positive outlook on the world or smile more in regards to my depression.

      I believe the idea that what works for you can and will work for others is an easy place to start, as we are trapped in our own minds and cannot possibly perceive life through the lens of others, but just as telling someone to just reach harder for an object when they are much shorter than you simply won't work, the idea that developing thick skin to not care probably does not apply to some. To some I would imagine it is a deeply difficult and hurtful thing. Given that there's very little that needs to be done to correct oneself or treat them with respect when they correct you, it seems like a pretty low bar to cross in order to be respectful and kind to fellow humans.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        vord
        Link Parent
        Maybe so. But thick skin is basically a required trait at this point. When you've got billions of people communicating online, we need the emotional maturity to handle insults and slights without...

        Maybe so. But thick skin is basically a required trait at this point. When you've got billions of people communicating online, we need the emotional maturity to handle insults and slights without losing your own cool.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. vord
            Link Parent
            Slights in general, not specifically regarding any one thing in particular.

            Slights in general, not specifically regarding any one thing in particular.

            1 vote
      2. vord
        Link Parent
        While this is a tangent, I'd point out your not far off. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. While there is a physical component to addiction, that is something that can be...

        I can easily say to addicts 'just have some self control'

        While this is a tangent, I'd point out your not far off. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

        While there is a physical component to addiction, that is something that can be resolved within 6 months. Relapsing is 100% about self-control, and even initially getting off the addiction path requires the adduct to decide for themselves they want to quit.

        Source: I'm still a smoker. I don't smoke, but that doesn't mean that the addict brain isn't still here.

        1 vote
    3. streblo
      Link Parent
      I’m pretty sure @tindall is referring to the written use of “she/he” or “his/her” in text when referring to an unknown subject.

      I’m pretty sure @tindall is referring to the written use of “she/he” or “his/her” in text when referring to an unknown subject.

      6 votes
    4. [2]
      autumn
      Link Parent
      Honest question: has anybody actually taken offense for this, assuming you didn’t know them?

      I'm gonna have to fight the urge to roll my eyes at anyone taking offense to it if I get it wrong when I don't know them.

      Honest question: has anybody actually taken offense for this, assuming you didn’t know them?

      6 votes
      1. vord
        Link Parent
        Been there. A condecending tone underlying the phrase "Actually I'm X." Which isn't bad in writing where tone is neutral by default, but in person you can feel the indignition sometimes. It's why...

        Been there. A condecending tone underlying the phrase "Actually I'm X." Which isn't bad in writing where tone is neutral by default, but in person you can feel the indignition sometimes.

        It's why I hate the term mansplaining. There's explaining, and then there's condescending explaining, and that's certainly not limited to just men.

        3 votes
  14. [2]
    Hypnos
    Link
    I specify pronouns because I use they/them. Few people use those by default so it is just easier for everyone involved if they know ahead of time.

    I specify pronouns because I use they/them. Few people use those by default so it is just easier for everyone involved if they know ahead of time.

    1. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. Hypnos
        Link Parent
        Ah, got it. Misunderstood the question

        Ah, got it. Misunderstood the question