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The English language has gendered pronouns in the third personthat is, he and she. Once upon a time, the masculine pronouns he, him, his, and himself were considered
acceptable for use as gender-neutral pronouns in situations where the sex of the person was not known:
Everyone should lock his office door at the end of the day.
The successful executive has confidence, and he can communicate effectively with everyone.
A worker is only as good as his tools.
Modern man no longer coddles himself during pregnancy. He continues to work often until days before he goes into labor and delivers.
That last example calls into question the neutrality of the pronoun, doesnt it? Today, the masculine pronoun is no longer considered gender-neutral, which leaves professional
writers with some choices to make when they want to be inclusive. No one has yet developed a widely accepted gender-neutral English pronoun, so were left with a few different
options when we want to write without specifying the gender of the person were talking about.
USE HE OR SHE OR SHE OR HE
The phrases he or she or she or he can work, especially if used sparingly. This construction can be clunky when its used in situations where the pronoun appears more than once in
a single sentence:
Everyone should lock his or her office door at the end of the day.
Everyone should lock his or her office door at the end of the day and ensure that he or she turns off the copier and printer.
USE S/HE AND HIS/HER
This option is typographically more efficient than using she or he, but it reads unnaturally:
The successful executive has confidence, and s/he can communicate effectively with everyone.
ALTERNATE USING HE AND SHE
If you have a fairly long text that features a lot of pronouns, you can alternate using he and she, showing equal favor to both. Thats the primary approach chosen for this book.
However, it wont work if you have a string of sentences that require the pronoun; the alternation will seem bizarre and confusing.
USE THEY AND THEIR AS SINGULAR PRONOUNS
Many writers use they and their to refer back to a singular subject, when the gender of that subject is unknown:
Everyone should lock their office door at the end of the day.
Somebody got their handprints all over the bathroom mirror; they ought to go back and clean it off.