He/She/It vs. They/Them

“Irregular Webcomic”:http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/1769.html has a funny strip up today that’s doubly amusing for writers. I’ve always known that using ‘they’ or ‘them’ as a pronoun to refer back to an (indeterminate) individual is _technically_ bad grammar, but as is pointed out in the notes that follow the strip, doing so is the best of the options available to the English language and, as such, is becoming more and more accepted in the common vernacular. The only other ‘best’ option is to coin a new term to refer back to an individual of unknown gender, but that route leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve actually read a couple of fantasy short stories where someone used _zie_ in this manner, and I ended up having to re-read sections two and three times until I figured out what they were trying to accomplish. I originally thought they were creating a new set of words exclusively for their story’s setting and only later learned of the movement to coin a gender-indefinite pronoun. It’s just always made more sense to me use ‘they’ or ‘them’ for this purpose, particularly because culture itself has driven the change. It’s effective and concise and everyone knows immediately what you mean.

Gotta love that head of a multiverse-spanning supernatural organisation.

2 thoughts on “He/She/It vs. They/Them”

  1. That sort of grammatical area is one that often seems tricky. I write from time to time a character that nobody knows the gender of and whom nobody is going to know the gender of. They’re deliberately ambivalent and intended to be so. But what then do I use instead of he/she or him/her? I’ve tended to use they or them simply because it seems to cause the least confusion.

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