Is the singular ‘they’ OK?

If the antecedent is singular, it’s grammatically incorrect to use ‘they,’ but ‘he or she’ is clunky. Where do you stand?

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How many times have you corrected a sentence like this:

Everyone should return to their seats.

To correct it, you can either do this: “Everyone should return to his or her seat,” or this: “Passengers should return to their seats.” You could also write, “Audience members should return to their seats,” or “Everyone return to your seat.”

What if we didn’t have to fix it, though? What if we could just leave the “their” in the sentence?

That option may soon be a reality. Over the last several weeks, several prominent language blogs have featured discussions on the singular “they” among them Lingua Franca, Poynter Institute and The Baltimore Sun.) The authors ask the question: Can “they” refer to an individual person, specifically a person of unspecified or unknown gender?

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