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Subject:Re: pronouns and portfolios From:Janice Gelb <janiceg -at- marvin -dot- eng -dot- sun -dot- com> To:"TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Fri, 6 Apr 2001 11:46:10 -0700 (PDT)
In article ORG -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com, bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com (Bruce Byfield) writes:
>jhamilton%XN_TECHNOLOGIES -at- xn-tech -dot- com wrote:
>| I'm a student (and a tech writer intern), and we had a discussion about
>| this in a grammar class where the teacher said using "they" as a pronoun
>| for an unidentified someone may eventually become common usage.
>| Personally, I think it's a great way to overcome the "s/he" conundrum,
>| although I avoid it in my papers. What do you think?
>I've got news for your teacher: "they" has been used in this way for
>at least a thousand years. It's commonplace in both speech and
>Of course, some people will say that it's unacceptable to use a
>plural pronoun for a singular subject. However, what these people
>don't understand is that, if it becomes generally used, it becomes a
>singular subject. The situation is as simple as that.
>Language, I'm glad to say, continues to defy the people who want to
>put everything into labelled boxes.
There's a difference between language mutating so that, say, a
word that used to be hyphenated isn't hyphenated any more. But
to have a word sometimes have one definition and sometimes another
doesn't fit into that category of "progress." One can't just say
*poof* and make a word sometimes plural and sometimes not plural,
the latter when one wants to get around some problem that one could
get around in another way if one just put some effort into it.
There are numerous gramatically acceptable ways to word
sentences to avoid gender-specific pronouns. Using "they"
for a singular subject is not one of them.
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