TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: use of he/she/they From:Sella Rush <SellaR -at- APPTECHSYS -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 12 Aug 1997 13:11:46 -0700
I want to get my vote in early because I bet there are gonna be some
interesting differences of opinion on this one.
Yes, there is a rule out there that pronouns should match the
antecedents. There's also a rule out there (still used, still pushed)
that "man" means both men and women and "he" means he or she. There
used to be a rule out there that the male of anything went before the
female because that was the "natural position" of man (that's why it now
*seems* more natural to say "brother and sister", "man and wife", "Mr.
But as we've discussed before, english is changing (rules are relaxing?)
and some of those changes have to do with gender awareness. Personally,
I like using "they", rather than "he or she" or some random
switching--or just one (I don't like to see all "he"s so I don't want to
use all "she"s--and I really don't like having to reword to avoid if it
results in really nasty constructions or something that doesn't fit the
rest of the text.
When I took a grammar class as part of a TC program about 18 months ago,
we discussed the use of "they". The instructor (Jan Spiradakis at UW)
mentioned that a number of people were beginning to use this alternative
and thought that there might be a future for it, but that it was a bit
too radical for her. Heck, I always wanted to be a radical at
something, so here I am.
For the record, I
*never use "he or she", "she or he", "she/he"--too awkward, slows the
*will first look for a painless way to reword
*happily use a plural pronoun with a singular antecedent
Sella Rush mailto:sellar -at- apptechsys -dot- com
Applied Technical Systems, Inc. (ATS)
Bremerton, Washington USA
Developers of the CCM Database