How writers can be inclusive with their use of pronouns

Although many grammar authorities have adopted the use of the singular ‘they’ for the past few years, historians say the use of the singular ‘they’ dates back to the 1600s.

Pronouns are an important topic for communicators looking to use inclusive language. As the number of people who identify as LGBTQ increases and attitudes on gender binary are changing, language must adapt.

For communicators who were drilled to follow rigid grammar rules, these changes can be hard to accept. But it’s important not to let scrupulous adherence to grammar lead to discrimination. And after all, the arbiters of grammar like the AP Stylebook have adopted use of the singular “they” in 2017 for subjects that are nonbinary or non-gender conforming.

Four years later, communicators who are still holding on to their old grammar textbooks are missing an opportunity for inclusion and grace—and people are starting to notice.

As CNN reported from its conversation with Shige Sakurai, founder of International Pronouns Day and associate director of the LGBT Equity Center at the University of Maryland, College Park:

Intentionally calling someone by the wrong pronoun can make them feel disrespected or alienated, and can take a toll on their mental health. It is also offensive and can be considered harassment.

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