They is wrong

According to the Fake AP Stylebook’s April 21 Facebook post:  “Avoid using masculine pronouns in sentences where the subject’s gender is not specified.  Broads find it offensive.”

What this broad finds offensive is the subject/pronoun disagreement that often occurs as a result of a writer’s attempt at political correctness.

I am a firm believer that political correctness and grammatical correctness are not mutually exclusive.  (Though if I did have to choose?  Hmmm.)

It is incorrect to suggest that “everyone have their say” or “the winner deserves their prize.”  In these instances, because the subject is singular,“their” should be “his.”   “He” and “his” are considered gender neutral, even though they are masculine pronouns.  For those sensitive to gender equity in grammar, “his or her” is perfectly acceptable.  Or,  if we know that the subject, say “winner” in the earlier example, is female, we may say “the winner deserves her prize.  “Their” is just plain wrong.

Also, remember that “everyone” is singular, even though it sounds like a lot of people.  Every one.   So please do not say “everyone is entitled to their opinion.”  

I recently stumbled on a blog that claims to specialize in writing.  I won’t call out the blogger by name because I know how hard it is to churn out copy day after day, and I am the first to admit that, in so doing, I make mistakes regularly. There is a difference between making a mistake and deliberately breaking a well-known rule.

The blogger wrote this week, “It helps a writer’s ego as well as their ability to write if they have peers to read and give feedback on their work.” 

The writer is a “he” or a “she,” not a “they;” otherwise, it would be “writers’ egos” and “writers’ work,” plural.  And if the choice is to go plural possessive, please note where the apostrophe goes.

Six days earlier, the same blogger wrote:  “Everyone has read a bit of bad prose or poetry in their life and access to the Internet seems to make it easier to point out other’s grammatical and spelling errors as well as their downright awful writing in general.”

Oh, really?

3 Comments

Filed under All Things Wordish

3 responses to “They is wrong

  1. Excellent point. Politically correct should never trump good grammar.

  2. Laura

    Although I don’t have a problem with writers who use “they” or “their” for singular antecedents in informal writing, I avoid it in my own writing. What’s interesting about this post (aside from the misuse of the word “subject” when you mean “antecedent”) is that often the whole issue can be avoided by recasting the sentence. Using a plural antecedent, the writer can then correctly use the plural pronoun. And in many instances, a pronoun is unnecessary.

  3. Hear, hear! (Not here, here, as has become more popular on the Web. According to all-knowing Wikipedia: “Hear, hear is an expression used as a short repeated form of hear him, hear him. It represents a listener’s agreement with the point being made by a speaker.” Or should we say, “hear her, hear her”?)

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