Singular “they” and gender-inclusive language guidelines we follow

February, 21, 2021 by Kyle Boas

We were reminded by this great post and conversation on the Infinite Flight Community Forum about the importance of using gender-inclusive language, in regards to the singular pronouns and how to properly address people.

A great outline for how we write here is outlined by the Associated Press:

They, them, their — In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them.They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze…

Arguments for using they/them as a singular sometimes arise with an indefinite pronoun(anyone, everyone, someone) or unspecified/unknown gender(a person, the victim, the winner)…

In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person…

Merriam-Webster made “they” word of the year in 2019 and has since given it’s blessing to use “they” as a singular pronoun, whereas it has originally been used only as a plural pronoun previously.

We use a lot of hypotheticals in our writing to explain certain situations, we may alternate between many different pronouns (he/she/they). And like what the Associated Press mentioned, will try to reword the sentence when possible to use names and titles as opposed to using “they”.

We are delighted that more inclusive language is getting more widely adopted as time passes and we would encourage anyone to add this language into their lexicon.

Kyle Boas is the Founder of the IFATC Education Group. He is also an IFATC Supervisor and former Trainer.