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Singular “they”

“They” has been used as a singular pronoun for centuries, since 1400 or so according to the Oxford English Dictionary. When I edit, I take into account the intended audience. If I think my client will get dinged because readers will insist singular they is wrong, I’ll suggest rewording.

From Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary:
Writers and speakers have supplied this lack by using the plural pronouns: “and every one to rest themselves betake” — Shakespeare; “I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly” — Jane Austen; “it is too hideous for anyone in their senses to buy” — W. H. Auden.

Also see this blog post discussing singular they filed under “Prescriptivist Poppycock” at Language Log.

About Sandra K. Williams

Sandra K. Williams loves books, both printed and digital. Since 1996 she has worked with authors and independent publishers, editing and designing books for print. Since 1999 she has built easy-to-use, accessible websites, and she uses her HTML and CSS skills to design reader-friendly e-books.

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