You Can Quit Correcting Me Now, Mother

I teach writing at the Richmond Jail (volunteer job), and my inmates, like many other people, are surprised when I tell them that the rules of grammar aren’t written in stone. This coming Monday, at my next class, I’ll be showing them an example of that, now that rules have changed on an important point.

It’s official!! “Their” can be singular! 

I can’t wait to tell my mother that she can stop correcting me when I say things like, ‘Everybody has their own opinion.’ (I know the old rule: that a singular subject takes a singular pronoun–it should be ‘Everybody has his or her own opinion’ unless it’s clearly masculine or feminine, like ‘Every girl has her own opinion.’) But at a recent meeting of the American Copyeditors Society, experts okayed a change that the major styles (Chicago and AP) agree on: “They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and or gender neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy.” THANK YOU!!! No more “Each child has his or her toy,” or pretending that “his” is neutral.

This is a day for celebration! Hooray!

Published in: on April 9, 2017 at 2:10 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My mother would be rolling over in their grave! (She still corrects me from there anyway!)

  2. Oh… maybe because I’m a ‘new’ user (my native language is Italian) I thought this was already a rule becuase I’ve seen it applied so many times

    • It was definitely not the rule before now, but because English lacks an essential component (a singular possessive pronoun that is neutral), people have done what people do–they find a way. This now is a “rule” in the sense that the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Style manual have agreed that it is acceptable. That doesn’t mean high school grammar books are going to be rewritten, just that you’ll see more of it from now on.

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