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Old 01-17-2019, 11:20 AM   #40
Catlady
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
latepaul, notice that in your first example "a person walking on ice should take care so that they don't slip" does not read as third person singular, it uses "they don't" rather than "they doesn't".

I leave it up to someone with better formal education in this area to offer the right words of technical explanation, but what I do know is that translating "he doesn't" into "they don't" is something that causes me to stumble while reading.

* George should take care so that he doesn't slip. (Reads okay)

* George should take care so that they doesn't slip. (Sounds like Gollum!)

* George should take care so that they don't slip. (Stumble: Huh? George and who?)


That dictionary.com article would seem to suggest that Gollum got it right (since that article doesn't discuss verb agreement), but the third example is what I've seen used in practice.
As noted, I haven't read this month's book, but I am a self-proclaimed member of the grammar police.

In most cases, gender-specific pronouns can be avoided with a simple alteration or workaround. For example, instead of latepaul's "a person walking on ice should take care so that they don't slip," one can substitute "persons" for "a person" or write "A person walking on ice should be careful not to slip."

Same thing with gmw's examples; one can simply write "George should be careful not to slip." No pronoun needed. Of course, in that example there's no special reason to avoid the male pronoun, unless one isn't sure if George is male or female (e.g., George Fayne in the Nancy Drew books).

I've read some suspense novels over the years that have deliberately concealed the gender of a character (usually the villain of the piece) by avoiding pronouns. Wendy Corsi Staub has done it more than once in her novels, and quite skillfully has led the reader to believe the villain is male and then sprung the surprise that the unsuspected female is actually the villain--or vice versa.

There's rarely a need to use "he or she" or "s/he"; there's no excuse to use "they" as a singular--that's just plain WRONG.
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