Take note, grammar aficionados: “They” is now an acceptable pronoun for a person who identifies “as neither male nor female”—at least at The Washington Post.
A Washington Post memo from style chief Bill Walsh reads, in part:
It is usually possible, and preferable, to recast sentences as plural to avoid both the sexist and antiquated universal default to male pronouns and the awkward use of he or she, him or her and the like: All students must complete their homework, not Each student must complete his or her homework.
When such a rewrite is impossible or hopelessly awkward, however, what is known as “the singular they” is permissible: Everyone has their own opinion about the traditional grammar rule. The singular they is also useful in references to people who identify as neither male nor female.
Though the precept hasn’t made its way into the AP Stylebook yet, it marks a bold step in addressing the conversation around gender pronouns in an increasingly politically correct climate.
It also comes as The New York Times used the honorific “Mx.” in a story that featured a quote from a person who didn’t wish to be assigned a gender.
The response on Twitter has been mixed:
— Carlos Lozada (@CarlosLozadaWP) December 1, 2015
— Emily Bingham (@emilybingham) December 2, 2015
This just in: The Washington Post will allow singular “they” https://t.co/Y9PlZk9t3Y Huzzah!
— Jason Renker (@JasonRenker) December 2, 2015
First the wrong def. of “literally” is added to the dictionary, then we get rid of the serial comma, now this?! https://t.co/xyeZKTCtsO
— Lynn La (@lynnlaaa) December 2, 2015
It’s about time! I use the singular “they”; “he or she” is awkward -Washington Post will allow singular ‘they’ https://t.co/ZXhRHOh6cz
— Rachell Underhill (@rmunde) December 2, 2015
— David Norton (@russianpeasant) December 2, 2015
Washington Post allows singular “they”: https://t.co/FNmppExzb7 … Next up, ‘who’ replaces ‘whom’ as object almost everywhere.
— jo bourne (@jobourne) December 2, 2015
The Washington Post accepts use of “they” as a singular pronoun. Pearls clutched across the nation. https://t.co/OAnSqNUeWv
— Laura Anne Gilman (@LAGilman) December 2, 2015
What do you think of the decision?