Editors for the Creation of a Gender-Neutral Pronoun

By Sara Hoffmann
Senior Editor

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?

4 thoughts on “Editors for the Creation of a Gender-Neutral Pronoun

  1. ekariniemi

    Agreed! My first language, Finnish, is more gender neutral in general, and the 3rd person singular is the same for all in formal usage, hän, and colloquial speech, se – also true in all dialects that people speak most of the time, including slang. So, I've never internalized the she/he dichotomy, get them mixed up…

  2. Sara Hoffmann

    Thanks for the feedback. I think the gender neutrality of Finnish sounds appealing. We could definitely learn something from the Finnish language! 🙂

  3. Sandy

    HI Sara- First, to be in the spirit of the change, you might wish to change your surname to Hoffperson.

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