By Sara Hoffmann
I’d like to form a new club. Or maybe I could start a group on Facebook. (Then again, I’m not sure how many people would join.) I’d call my group Editors for the Creation of a Gender-Neutral Pronoun.
I see the need for such a group because, as an editor, I find myself encountering problematic sentences like this one all … the … time:
Everyone must make up their own mind.
The their in this sentence doesn’t really work because the subject of the sentence is singular. To get around this problem, an editor might be tempted to replace the their with a his. But then, our crack in-house proofreader would flag the sentence, pointing out that the use of his as gender neutral is contra CMS. Same goes for using her (although alternating between his and her in sentences like this one was pretty popular in textbooks in the ’90s). Another option might be to swap out the their for his or her. But yuck! How clunky.
I think I just might start a group. We members could knock ourselves out discussing pronouns, singular-plural agreement, and the like. It would be heaven for a grammar geek like me. Who’s in?