Top 10 grammar myths: you must not use the singular ‘they’

The singular they, their and themselves have been used for several hundred years by fine writers.

God send everyone their heart’s desire.
William Shakespeare

But how can you talk with a person if they always say the same thing.
Lewis Carroll

I know when I like a person directly I see them.
Virginia Woolf

These days the generic ‘he’ is unacceptable for referring to both men and women, but the alternative ‘he/she’ or ‘h/she’ looks ugly.

Although the singular they is acceptable, it can sometimes look clumsy.

When an employee enters the data, they must remember to save it.

Other ways of working around this problem are to use:

  • The plural

When employees enter the data, they must remember to save it.

  • Second person

When you enter the data, remember to save it.

  • First person plural

We all need to avoid sexist writing.

Read more about this topic at http://www.editorscanberra.org/a-singular-use-of-they

 

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