NPR agrees: singular “they” is cool.
I’ve used this form of ‘they’ my whole life(at least as much of it as I can remember). I didn’t even realize this was considered grammatically incorrect (until now).
You were born free, in the world outside the Matrix.
Just noticed this post — I heard this on NPR that day… and intellectually, I think it’s interesting. In English/Language Arts classes, we were always taught that using a singular “they” was akin to summoning the devil.
In Latin, it’s an actual literary device, either in the royal “we” sense with someone referring to himself/herself, or you leave out the pronoun for almost everyone (unless you’re specifically trying to bring emphasis). In this case, you generally judge who you think the sentence is talking about based on context clues and go with that.
Anyway, I get why people do it, and I do it, too, especially if a name owner’s gender might be ambiguous to me, or if I don’t want to awkwardly do the he/she thing in every sentence that could be an random gender. What’s the alternative? Always selecting a theoretical he (or she) for examples?
The Chicago Manual of Style frowns on singular “they” and has an entire section on alternatives, but none are very good. As you say, “he/she” is awkward. The best solution I’ve seen is to use “he” in some places and “she” in others, but even that can be confusing. People just need to suck it up, use “they,” and move on. 🙂
That’s cool about the Latin though.
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