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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Third Person Singular Indefinite Pronoun

Third Person Singular Indefinite Pronoun

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Here is a little reform that needs to happen. Why haven't English professors and English teachers fixed the "third person singular indefinite pronoun" problem? It is glaringly sexist. Why does every teacher/professor have there own clumsy construct to present? him/her, her/his, her or him, him or her, alway him, always her, alternate her and him, .. same with she/he or he/she (note I put she/he first to be fair). If we can't fix this little problem how do we think we can fix those big problems? Why do some use it as a literary weapon? I always use the plural pronouns for the indefinite third person or try to avoid it by rephrasing my sentence. Awkward. I took a survey, a while back, of people in the English departments of the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California Los Angeles. I asked them what they use. 25 different solutions from 150 different people. No standard except the sexist "he/him/his". Please fix. Thanks.

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Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Online Editor
Blogger 2014

Thanks for sharing this insight, Bob, and your findings.

Sometimes I like to really shake it up, or so I think, by simply using the pronoun "her" and "she" instead of "his" and "he" at all. I think this gives the reader something to think about. I do it often in my blog posts.

Thanks again,
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia

dbixby001's picture
dbixby001
Citizen who understands Education is the most important piece in society.

You say "please fix" as though there is a committee reading this who can make that change with a sweep of a pen. There is no "them". If you want that change, start making it. Come up with words, say se/ser/sis instead of he/him/his and she/her/hers, and begin using it and encouraging others to use it. If you sit around calling for others to make the change, you are wasting everyone's time.

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