“Can I use ‘their’ in sentences ?”

by | Jan 17, 2018

[I’m working on this page, today.]

One of the things I especially like about having my own writing business is the ability to help when a volunteer group needs a newsletter or a final look-see for a website.

This is one place I can ‘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 desks – 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 ‘his,’ ‘… all men are created equal,’ or ‘mankind’ cropped up, everyone had enough sense 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, Kathie … what do I do?”

Remember, the client dictates how I edit their materials.

Some insist I leave in a lot of junk that … that … makes me ask them not to mention my name anywhere.

But I stand firm on using ‘their’ and ‘them’ instead of going through gender gymnastics.

Don’t be afraid to use these two words if they are acceptable to the client.

They are grammatically correct and offer an easy way to include everyone.

If you’re writing for someone else, though, don’t forget to ask what they prefer.


Your Takeaway: If the Grammar Police on your project haven’t banned ‘their’ and ‘them,’ it’s OK to use these grammatically correct words to show inclusivity.

Final Note: Feel free to join me in this take-back-the-language issue when circumstances allow. You may be surprised by those who are insulted with your stand.

Hang in there.

Please leave a comment about your experience with this issue!

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4 Comments

  1. Shirley

    I agree with you. Too much political correctness in grammar. I’d rather be creative and imaginative in the way I write and speak. I do get my point across. And if someone is offended, that’s THEIR issue, not mine.

    Reply
    • Kathie York

      Oh, Shirley, thanks for the grin! It’s difficult to keep up with ‘PC,’ so I’ve decided to fuhgeddaboudit :->

      Reply
  2. Emenike Emmanuel

    Hello Kathie,

    I like your submission on this very topic. It used to be very confusing to me until I decided to settle for one. Some linguistic experts says, “He” is more correct while others says, it’s, “She.” But if you ask me, I would rather pick one and maintain it throughout the content. I’m not a proofreader, anyway. I write for myself and do hope my readers will understand me better.

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve learnt a lot reading this.

    Emenike

    Reply
    • Kathie York

      Emenike,

      Thanks for sharing! Yes, consistency is the key.
      For me, this is one of those ‘taking back the language’ issues!
      Depending on if it’s singular or plural, ‘he’ and ‘their’ are still OK.
      Well … for the time being, at least.
      Please share with others, and I appreciate your comments, K.

      Reply

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Kathie York, CSQE
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