Writing question: he, she or they?

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,249 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭
edited September 2017 in Grammar

How do we use singular and plural gender in our writing?

We recently received this answer to a question:

When a person loses his/her job, he/she will get paid no  money and will not be able to buy food for himself/herself nor rent a room for himself/herself.

While this answer is grammatically correct, it is difficult to read and not acceptable as a written response.

First, it is grammatically correct because "a person" is singular, and that person could be a man or a woman. So the student wrote using both the masculine (he, himself) and feminine (she, herself) pronouns.

But this makes a sentence which is difficult to read.

A better choice would be to use the plural form. "When people lose their jobs, they will not get paid and will not be able to buy food for themselves nor rent a room for themselves."

This answer includes all people.

Be careful about using words like "Everyone, someone, anyone, and no one; everybody, somebody, anybody and nobody", because these words are singular and take a singular pronoun. A sentence like, "Everyone needs to be sure to lock his or her car" is better written as "Employees need to be sure to lock their cars."

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