For all you grammaphones out there, here is a lesson on the correct use of gender-neutral pronouns. While some well-known, better-unmentioned anti-social networking websites use “they” and “them” as gender-neutral pronouns, everyone knows “they” and “them” are both plural, and therefore cannot be used for a single person, whether that person is a male, female, or gender-neutral person.
Some have argued that the problem lies in the fact that these websites try to do “automatically,” that is, by pre-programmed methods, what any idiot can just type in him-or-herself.1 For example, if I decide to put up a new profile picture, I could easily type in “Jim just posted a new photo on his profile.”2 The pre-programmed anti-social media would just say “on their profile.” However, the stupidity of real-life, actual people will easily reveal itself in a quick internet search or casual conversation, and you will see that, all too often, people use the wrong pronouns when they try to write (even when they don’t let the computers write for them).
In any event, the studious reader will want to know how to construct proper sentences with the grammatically-correct use of gender-neutral pronouns, if for no other reason than to gain political power. We hope the following will prove a valuable aid, and we have littered it with examples to illustrate the lesson clearly.
The first point to remember is that, while in bygone days of yesteryear, one might have presumed that certain occupations were held primarily or solely by members of a certain sex, this is no longer the case. There are now a wide variety of genders, and even some animals, in nearly all professions these days. So, when addressing practitioners of any profession, it is necessary to remain neutral (like Switzerland) and use the gender-neutral forms “he/she,” “him/her,” “his/her,” etc.
- The kindergarten teacher wears his/her hair in a bun.
- That major league baseball coach led his/her team to his/her/its first win at the World Series.
- Rock artist Trent Reznor recorded his/her first album in the United States.
- Mary the homemaker asked his/her mother-in-law if he/she could use his/her brownie pan, but his/her mother-in-law curtly declined.
However, it goes further than just professions. These days, names are often gender-neutral as well.
- Mel met his/her future wife/husband at his/her best friend’s wedding 12 or 13 years ago.
- Sam’s computer wouldn’t start because his/her power supply had failed and his/her capacitor had shorted, which means he/she wasn’t supplying him/her the proper voltage.
- Every day, John reads his/her favourite online news site, The Flying News, while eating his/her breakfast.
One additional point: in poetry, it is necessary to take into account the meter, so as not to sacrifice the beauty of the verse.
There once was a bold engineer
who had his or her share of a beer;
when often designing,
he or she so imbibing,
built his or her bridges with gears.
There will be a separate article at The Flying News Literary Review on Writing Fiction with Gender-Neutral Pronouns.
We urge you to share this article with your family, as he/she/it is certain to strengthen his/her/its mastery of the English language.