Singular they: Some say nay

In a March 24, 2017 op-ed in Texas Center for Community, Poynter Institute writer Kristin Hare peed herself over the AP Stylebook change allowing the use of “they” as a singular pronoun. Here is part of her rant:

“So AP plans to approve a singular ‘they.’ Why stop there? Let's do away with the difference between its and it's. And plurals and possessives. And equally outdated rules outlawing misspellings and comma splices.”

Godgod, Kristin! Why not do away with running your incomplete sentences together!

I knew about the AP Stylebook change a year ago, but apparently Hare just stumbled across it or lost an argument with a co-worker.

The “singular they,” as it is called, is using the word to describe one unknown person or one unnamed person, not knowing if it is a man or a woman. The argument is “they” is plural and the subject is singular. Here is an example:

“No teacher wants this to happen, but they don’t consider the consequence.” “No teacher” is singular and “they” is plural.

Most of us use singular they in language with no discomfort or aftertaste.

AP style rightfully banned the use of “he/she” and “his/her” long ago because it sounds and looks annoying, such as, “The winning cook must show his/her original submission to the judges.”

By the way, in a op-ed used by the Texas Center for Community earlier this year a writer used “s/he” in place of a singular they. I think s/he needs to have h/his head examined.

People who believe written language should not evolve with common usage should use words like “thee,” “thine” and “thou,” and while their co-workers are avoiding them here is something else to make them angry: If you were to use “he/she” to refer to one person, well, “he” is one and “she” is another, and that makes two, which is plural. Get it?

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