In the context of everyday speech, area residents are increasingly using the pronoun “they” to describe a singular person. Using they as a singular pronoun is now a social norm as well as grammatically correct.
How do people use they? Denizens might use they to describe a person of unknown gender, to describe someone who does not exist or as a personal pronoun. Below are some examples:
Gary’s Pizza delivers a steaming mac ’n cheese pizza and garlic cheese bread to Jennifer’s house. Jennifer accepts the food, tips the delivery person, and puts dinner on the table. Her husband asks “how much did you tip them?”
Them, in this context, referred to a single person, the pizza delivery person. Since Jennifer’s husband did not see the person, he referred to them using English’s only non-gendered pronoun.
There are also times when they and them are used as personal pronouns. Some people of indeterminate or definitively nonbinary genders will always use they or them instead of he or she. For example, “Alex left their lunchbox at school yesterday. I guess they will have to use a paper bag.” In this case, Alex never uses she or he. They is their personal pronoun.
Some nonbinary people use neopronouns, such as ze/zir/zirs. An example is:
“Jax loves Flour & Flower. Ze eats there four times a week.”
There are many other neopronouns. Some people use a combination of different pronouns. Some people use none at all. Although these are not nearly as common as they, neopronouns are on the rise as well.
It is becoming a social norm to be as inclusive as possible. People introduce themselves with pronouns:
“Hi, I’m Rosa, she/her.”
Many professionals include pronouns in their bios or email signatures. People are using they instead of she or he on their websites and in their handbooks for clarity and inclusivity.
Not everyone feels comfortable introducing their pronouns, because they do not know which pronouns fit them best, they have never thought about their pronouns before, they don’t use pronouns or they do not feel safe revealing a nonbinary identity at the moment. However, the area is slowly becoming a safer environment for those with pronouns other than she/her and he/him. Denizens can make it even safer, by normalizing the usage of they as a singular pronoun, and respecting a person’s pronouns.
It’s normal to make mistakes, and call someone the wrong pronoun every now and then, but it is incredibly disrespectful to intentionally misuse pronouns. For example, if Bobby explained their pronouns are they/them, one should not say:
“Bobby parked his car in front of Sal’s last night, and someone threw up all over his windshield.”
Instead, the correct way to say it is:
“Bobby parked their car in front of Sal’s last night, and someone threw up all over their windshield.”
Using the wrong pronouns makes Bobby feel like people don’t see them as a human being worthy of respect. Language changes, but people can too. Look at history:
The evolution of pronouns can be seen in many places, such as board game instructions. Early board games used to say things like “on a player’s turn, he draws a card.” Instructions later said “on a player’s turn, she draws a card,” to emphasize that women play board games too. After that, rules shifted to say things like “on a player’s turn, he or she draws a card,” to be inclusive of men and women. However, this leaves out people who are nonbinary and use they/them pronouns. “On a player’s turn, they draw a card,” is most inclusive and most modern. Persons concerned with preserving their idea of the English language might be tempted to write “on a player’s turn, that person draws a card,” to avoid pronouns altogether.
But why are people so worried about preserving the English language? The English language has already changed. Not just socially, but legally. Celeste Mora, senior content strategy manager at Grammarly, states:
A quick look on each style guide’s website reveals this is correct. They has changed to become both singular and plural. In the context of writing about an unknown or imaginary person, APA’s style guide advises against using “he or she,” “(s)he,” or “s/he,” and to use “they” instead.
“It is inclusive of all people and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender.”
In English, pronouns have always been changing. “Thy” and “thou” were once part of the everyday speech, but are no longer used. To stay up to date with current linguist trends and grammatical accuracy, use “they” as a singular, gender-free pronoun.