The Art of Editing, or Should Writers Use the Singular “They”?

should writers use the singular theyI recently completed line editing a dystopian novel. After going through my edits, the author wrote to me with several questions, prefacing them with this statement:

“I made the mistake of not pestering my last editor on details like these. I’m not making that mistake again.”

He was absolutely correct to question something he didn’t understand, and I assured him that I would answer any queries he had. After all, how can writers improve their writing if they write in a vacuum?

One of his questions concerned pronouns and antecedents:

I’ve read about the use and acceptance of gender-neutral pronouns. I prefer gender-neutral pronouns when I talk. You seem to be correcting against the use of gender-neutral pronouns in my writing. May I ask why? Is the world about to go to war over this? I really wish it wasn’t an issue, but apparently it still is. Does using gender-neutral pronouns make my writing look that bad?

I want to be one of the trendsetters that makes gender neutral pronouns the norm, but I don’t want my work to suffer for it. How do I walk that line?”

Ahhh, the controversial use of “they” with a singular antecedent, or as one of my fellow editors calls it, the “informal singular ‘they.’” Continue reading “The Art of Editing, or Should Writers Use the Singular “They”?”

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