On Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 12:16 PM MRAB firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Here's an article on singular 'they':
TL;DR: It's not a recent usage; it was OK in 1375.
Forgive me for not giving a detailed play by play of 15 years of experience specifically as a writer and editor.
Over the last handful of decades, singular "they" has been explicitly taught as inappropriate. My own college writing classes (only 10 years ago now) included this specific piece of advice.
In terms of modern English vernacular, singular "they" has been continuously and rigorously treated as inappropriate.
Those who prefer singular "they", myself included, point to references very much like yours as evidence that it has a long history of usage. But until only the last few years, the popular style guides explicitly forbade it.
I hope that helps you understand.
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On 2020-07-02 15:19, Piper Thunstrom wrote:
On Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 10:01 AM Paul Moore email@example.com wrote:
What *is* the correct inclusive way to refer to an unidentified person in a technical document, without sacrificing clarity by using convoluted circumlocutions like "he/her/they" or over-use of the passive voice? My impression is that commonly accepted language rules and usage are lagging behind, and there's no good answer to this question yet :-(
Paul, this is actually a good question to ask. In general, singular "they" is becoming more popular. It's already used frequently for the singular indeterminate pronoun:
"Someone wants to talk to you." "What do they want?"
Those who favor prescriptivism will tell you this is improper usage (especially when it goes from an unknown someone to a known someone) but it avoids the strange construction of "he or she" and is more inclusive of diverse genders and is historically how the word was used. (For a fun counter example, the word "you" used to be a plural second person pronoun, but no one today would argue that it makes no sense to use it for an individual.)
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