×
INTELLIGENT WORK FORUMS
FOR ENGINEERING PROFESSIONALS

Contact US

Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.

Students Click Here

PC use of "They"
2

PC use of "They"

PC use of "They"

(OP)
Many people now, including on this site, use "they" instead of a singular pronoun when they are unsure of the gender of a subject.  Bugs me.  I don't see what is wrong with using "he" as a gender neutral pronoun.  I would even prefer "it".  

RE: PC use of "They"

hokie66,

   I am pretty certain I have done at some point in time.  "It" is singular, and therefore more logical than the plural "they".  On the other hand, "they" implies people, and "it" implies something inanimate.  

   You are offending somebody.  All you can do is decide who.

               JHG

RE: PC use of "They"

There isn't a good answer to that.  Using "he/she" or (even worse in my opinion) "(s)he" is awkward and cumbersome.  But there are people who get offended with "he" and I've heard people complain about writers that swap genders randomly within their text.  

So what do you do?  Usually you are trying to make a point that simply doesn't have a gender component.  If you say "The operator will be expected to ... and in that condition he will ..." then you are providing technical instruction.  If you change the "he" to "the operator" it gets awkward.  Changing it to "they" almost keeps the brevity, but that offends you personnaly.

I think that people who get upset with this irrelevancy in language really should get a life.  And they should all get together and give us guidance as to what we can say to make our real point with getting balled up in their semantic prejudices.

David

RE: PC use of "They"

I learned the use of 'they' for 'he/she' by reading some posts here as well as recently heard it in an old English movie (probably of late 1940's or early 50's), where an actress refers to a person whose gender what known to her, as "they'. That tells me that this has been use for a long time, even before people getting offended by such things became fashionable. (Use of language in movies was much different than now, of course.)

By the way, I do not profess to be an expert in English.

Rafiq Bulsara
http://www.srengineersct.com

RE: PC use of "They"

(OP)
Maybe I do need to get a life, but that life is going to continue to be offended by this political correctness nonsense.  The use of "they" in this manner is only a recent thing.

RE: PC use of "They"

You can always use the phrase "the person" instead.  

Gender non-specific, human in reference and non-offensive in nature.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

RE: PC use of "They"

Or you could say "the individual" or "the OP", as we do here on many occasions where appropriate.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

RE: PC use of "They"

(OP)
Of course you can refrain from using pronouns at all, but if you do choose to use the shorter version to avoid clumsiness, what's wrong with "he"?  When I refer to the actions of a contractor, I always say "he did it".  Contractor is singular, so it deserves to be substituted with a singular pronoun, not "they".

RE: PC use of "They"

Or you could call it the "royal they" as in the royal we.

http://www.goliberty.net/2011/02/11/the-royal-they/

There are many ways that "they" is misused as a pronoun. Most irritate me because it is a sign of unclear thinking on the part of the person using it. I've been in conversations where someone uses "they" in three or more successive sentences but in each case is referring to a different subject. I that case I usually reply "Who is they?"
 

RE: PC use of "They"

I enjoyed the Firesign Theater response: "Name three."

RE: PC use of "They"

I don't think you loose much when using the phrase 'he or she' which is of the correct plurality without resorting to silly punctuation.  I have often just used the female pronoun.  This gives a slightly jarring effect to a male reader which make them think about the use of a gendered  pronoun as place holders for the undefined gender of a reader.  I don't think female readers miss a beat when they read the male pronoun and know it's refering to them.  That said the use of they as a singular pronoun when gender is undefined is common and as a supporter of a descriptive grammer instead of a proscriptive grammer, common usage is acceptable usage.

-Kirby

Kirby Wilkerson

Remember, first define the problem, then solve it.

RE: PC use of "They"

2
Shakespeare used the singular they in Romeo and Juliet.  Mark Twain and Jane Austen also used the singular they in some of their works.  It's not new, and while I'm not in their league by any means, if they use it, then I have no problem using the singular they.

Good Luck
--------------
As a circle of light increases so does the circumference of darkness around it. - Albert Einstein

RE: PC use of "They"

I've seen documents that very early on stated that all entities reference in the document would be referred to as singular and male regardless of possible plurality or gender.  Makes things very simple.  Given that, one could also pick plural and/or female, but in English, at least, singular and male results in the shortest words needed.

RE: PC use of "They"

I grew up using 'they' for this type of application and never really thought about it being because of PC.  As Cajun and others point out some pretty old and highly esteemed literature uses the word in this manner.

I'm afraid I may have to side with zdas on this one.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: PC use of "They"

I started using it after reading some posts in eng-tips. I immediately liked it as there is a similar usage in my native and national languages (I believe it is same in many of Indian langauges). We use it for third person with respect or if they are strangers.

We don't have 'it' in our languages. Feminine gender is used instead.

RE: PC use of "They"

"It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again!"  So it can be used as well. :)

-Kirby

Kirby Wilkerson

Remember, first define the problem, then solve it.

Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members! Already a Member? Login


Resources

Low-Volume Rapid Injection Molding With 3D Printed Molds
Learn methods and guidelines for using stereolithography (SLA) 3D printed molds in the injection molding process to lower costs and lead time. Discover how this hybrid manufacturing process enables on-demand mold fabrication to quickly produce small batches of thermoplastic parts. Download Now
Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM)
Examine how the principles of DfAM upend many of the long-standing rules around manufacturability - allowing engineers and designers to place a part’s function at the center of their design considerations. Download Now
Taking Control of Engineering Documents
This ebook covers tips for creating and managing workflows, security best practices and protection of intellectual property, Cloud vs. on-premise software solutions, CAD file management, compliance, and more. Download Now

Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close