Make Your Editor Cry: Subject to Pronoun disagreement

Make Your Editor Cry:  Subject to Pronoun disagreement

Ensure that only singular pronouns are used with singular noun case and plurals with plural case.

Incorrect:

Every writer knows their work better than anyone else.

Correct:

Every writer knows his or her work better than anyone else.

The use of the phrase “his or her” can be awkward and wordy, so you can just pick one or the other as long as you’re sensitive to any gender issues your audience might raise.

Correct:

Every writer knows his work better than anyone else.

Every writer knows her work better than anyone else.

Bottom line: never use “they, their, them” in place of his or her, he or she, him or her.

If there is some driving reason to use a plural pronoun, switch to the plural noun so that they agree.

Correct:

All writers know their work better than anyone else.

It may be worth mentioning that the standard non-gender specific inclusive pronoun in the English language for hundreds of years has always been the male gendered pronoun.

Example:

In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; (Genesis 5: 1b-2a KJV from 1611 AD, emphasis obviously mine)

Words like man and mankind and he, his, him all represented both sexes easily until very recently. Personally, I think the words man and mankind read very clear and are more elegant in most cases than the longer human and humankind that the shorter words inclusively represent.

If you must make a judgement call, you can always choose to rely upon several hundred years of proper English grammar and use the male pronouns. In your mind and heart you merely have to dispel the somewhat recent claim that this traditional pronoun choice represents sexism and is rooted in some kind of secret patriarchal misogynistic chauvinist conspiracy to subjugate and humiliate women… or whatever.

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