“I think singular pronoun agreement is evolving out of English; most authors I copy-edit use “they” rather than the correct, “he or she” (or variations). Will you abandon pronoun agreement?”
Meg Nash, a freelance writer-editor in the Greater Philadelphia area asked that question just over a month ago in the LinkedIn Writers and Editors group. It hit a nerve in the community and has stimulated 300 comments to date!
I was surprised to see the debate, as I first questioned the use of the masculine pronoun back in 1987 in the first article I ever had published. I researched my essay “The Rise and Fall of the Masculine Generic” in the Law Library at the University of Ottawa, and it was published on the Ottawa Citizen‘s essay page, on November 14, 1987. Quite a Valentine’s day topic!
My dear mother, back in Canada, was so proud of me, she had the article laminated and has stored it in her filing cabinet all these years! (Oh where would we be without our mothers?) So, when I saw the thread I wrote and asked her if she still had it, and of course, she did! So she shipped it off to me and it arrived a couple of days ago.
The essay occupied most of the page in the Ottawa Citizen, and measures 35cm by 38cm and is a bitch* to scan on my small home scanner! Too big to scan in one piece, just a bit too big to scan in two pieces!I want to post a series of images with print large enough for you to read without having to click on the image, and as I’m better with audio than images, I may take the job to a pro!
For today you have the bottom right hand corner of the printed page, where you can read about how the generic masculine was used to deny women the right to vote. Hence, the word suffragist in the image search!
I’ll try to have the whole thing for you to read tomorrow.
What do you think? Should we use ‘they’ as a singular pronoun, for lack of a better word?
- Reader query: pronoun choice in paper about parenthood (feministphilosophers.wordpress.com)