Re: use of he/she/they

Subject: Re: use of he/she/they
From: Ron Jenkins <rjenkins -at- MYNA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 1997 10:08:25 +0000

A collection of useful methods for eliminating the generic "he"
can be found in _The Non-Sexist Word Finder_:

-the pronoun "he," when used generically, can be avoided, replaced,
or defused in several ways:

1. Everyone is a genius at least once a year; a real genius has
his ideas closer together. (G.C. Lichtenberg)

-rewrite the sentence in the plural

Everyone is a genius at least once a year; real geniuses have
their ideas closer together. (G.C. Lichtenberg)

2. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his
needs. (Karl Marx)

-rewrite the sentence using we/us/our

From each of us according to our abilities, to each of us
according to our needs. (Karl Marx)

3. No man knows his true character until he has run out of gas,
purchased something on the instalment plan, and raised an
adolescent. (Mercelene Cox)

-rewrite the sentence in the second person

You don't know your true character until you have run out of gas,
purchased something on the instalment plan, and raised an
adolescent. (Mercelene Cox)

4. Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils,
chooses both. (Oscar Wilde)

-recast in the passive voice

Pessimist: One who, when given the choice of two evils,
chooses both. (Oscar Wilde)

5. Repartee: What a person thinks of after he becomes a departee.
(Dan Bennett)

-omit the pronoun entirely

Repartee: What a person thinks of after becoming a departee. (Dan
Bennett)

6. The American arrives in Paris with a few French phrases he has
culled from a conversational guide or picked up from a friend who
owns a beret. (Fred Allen)

The American arrives in Paris with a few French phrases culled
from a conversational guide or picked up from a friend who owns a
beret. (Fred Allen)

7. Can't a critic give his opinion of an omelette without being
asked to lay an egg? (Clayton Rawson)

-replace the masculine pronoun with an article

Can't a critic give an opinion of an omelette without being
asked to lay an egg? (Clayton Rawson)

8. He who can take advice is sometimes superior to him who can
give it. (Karl von Knebel)

-replace the pronoun with such words as someone, anyone, one,
the one, no one, etc.

Someone who can take advice is sometimes superior to one who can
give it. (Karl von Knebel)

9. Everyone can master a grief but he that has it. (Shakespeare)

Everyone can master a grief but the one who has it.
(Shakespeare)

[We all have the strength to endure the misfortunes of others.
(La Rochefoucauld)]

10. Education is helping the child realize his potentialities.
(Erich Fromm)

-use he and she or his and her, but only if there are not a
great many of them
-s/he is not recommended except in the most informal writing

Education is helping the child realize his or her
potentialities. (Erich Fromm)

11. He is forced to be literate about the illiterate, witty about
the witless, and coherent about the incoherent. (John Crosby)

-replace the pronoun with a noun (or a synonym for a noun used
earlier)

The politician is forced to be literate about the illiterate,
witty about the witless, and coherent about the incoherent. (John
Crosby)

12. To find a friend one must close one eye--to keep him, two.
(Norman Douglas)

To find a friend one must close one eye--to keep a friend,
two. (Norman Douglas)

13. When you see a snake, never mind where he came from. (W.G.
Benham)

-when he refers to an animal whose sex is unknown or
irrelevant, replace he with it

When you see a snake, never mind where it came from. (W.G.
Benham)

14. When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is
trying to run away, it is best to let him run. (Abraham
Lincoln)

When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and it is
trying to run away, it is best to let it run. (Abraham
Lincoln)

15. Only a mediocre person is always at his best. (Somerset
Maugham)

-the singular they has strong supporters; preferable to avoid
in the most formal prose

Only a mediocre person is always at their best. (Somerset
Maugham)

-may also use masculine and feminine pronouns in alternating
sentences, paragraphs, examples, chapters, although this can
be annoying

-may use specific genderless nouns (the average person,
workers, etc.) or substitute job titles or other
descriptions for the pronoun
============================================================
Ron Jenkins, Technical Communications
SilCom Technology
5620 Timberlea Blvd., Mississauga, Ontario, CANADA L4W 4M6
Web: http://www.silcomtech.com
Voice: (905) 238-8822 Fax: (905) 238-1887
E-mail (work): silmark -at- silcomtech -dot- com
E-mail (personal): rjenkins -at- myna -dot- com
============================================================

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