Hearing this was a
pleasure to Rosie because she is constantly puzzling over
manuscripts that include such statements as: Every painter
should be careful when they choose their colors.
is almost throwing in the towel in the fight against the
Bill Walsh in his book "Lapsing Into a
Comma" gives us the normal alternatives: his or her, rewriting
the sentence in the plural (Painters should be careful
alternating between the masculine and feminine pronouns, or
self-consciously choosing feminine pronouns. But of these last
two choices he says, "Ask a sensible editor and she'll tell
you these practices are silly."
concludes, " Then how about enlisting they, them, their and
theirs as honorary singular pronouns in the fight against
sexist language? Well, maybe. Purists will be shocked, but I
find this less objectionable then the other alternatives."
The ever-permissive Webster's Dictionary of English
Usage tells us, "The lack of a common-gender and common-number
pronoun has been felt since at least as far back as Middle
English. The common solution has been to substitute the plural
they (or them or their); even Chaucer used this dodge."
Rosie was just about ready to agree, but she asked
Norm Goldstein, editor of the AP Stylebook, for help, and he
"I agree that using 'he or she' is extremely
awkward; this is a continuing problem because there's nothing
simple to use as a substitute.
"Copy editors shouldn't
be lazy, though. I recommend changing the sentence to the
plural and using 'they' or 'their' wherever possible (and
Uh-oh. Rosie was hoping for a solution
that would let her be lazy. Now what?
Talk the Talk:
More "Teen Speak" from ArtsandSciences, published by
the University of Virginia:
Playa noun a guy who
has many girlfriends.
J slash K appreciation, just
True adjective correct, right Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825) fax
or letter (c/o Style Weekly, 1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201,
Richmond, Va. 23230)