One of the things I especially like about having my own proofing business is the ability to help when a volunteer group needs a newsletter or, perhaps, a final look-see for a website.
This is one place I’m able to ‘give back to the community,’ as well as help someone who is in panic mode.
For example, the person who shows up at meetings and takes good notes. “Hey! You can write. Can you do our newsletter?”
If you’ve been in that situation, you know it’s hard to say “No” to puppy dog eyes. And I’m not talking about a tour at the local animal shelter :->
These volunteers – or maybe even an employee whose boss keeps dumping writing projects on their desk – are often nervous when they contact me, and I like to help ‘up’ their confidence level.
Sometimes it’s a tough question
In one case, someone asked me:
“If you don’t know the gender, is it grammatically
correct to use ‘their’ or ‘them’?”
This speaks directly to my taking-back-the-language fight, but it depends on the organization and who approves the newsletter.
‘Their’ and ‘them’ were fine for … how many generations? They sure make things easier when we are talking about a mixed group of people.
Twenty years in the making
Back in the day (as my grandmother was fond of saying), people didn’t have this gender ‘thing’ with sentences. If the now-dreaded their cropped up, everyone had sense enough to know it was inclusive. It meant ‘everyone.’
When the atrocities of always using ‘she,’ insisting on ‘he or she,’ or the horror of ‘s/he’ reared their ugly heads, I shouted “Enough!”
“So … what do I do?”
Remember, the client dictates how we edit their materials. But when it’s up to me, I use ‘their’ and ‘them’ instead of going through writing gymnastics.
Don’t be afraid to use these two words if they are acceptable to the client. They are grammatically correct and offer a way to easily include everyone.
Always ask what the client prefers.
Now … that doesn’t mean my original copy includes phrasing I don’t like. I use the find/replace feature and change things at the last minute.
The trick there, of course, is: don’t forget the changes!
Your Takeaway: Depending on who’s in charge of what you write, check to see if the grammar police have banned ‘their’ and ‘them.’
If not, it’s fine to use these grammatically correct words.
Final Note: Feel free to join me in this take-back-the-language issue when circumstances allow. You may be surprised with those who are personally affronted by your stand, but hang in there.