Pearson Adult Learning Centre HomePearson Adult Learning Centre: Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde

 

editpaper

A Person Entitled to “Their” Opinion?

Although the use of “they” to mean a singular has a long history in English, it is still considered informal for written usage. Tell that to a list of writers that includes Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dickens!

In fact, the use of “they” as a singular is already the most common and most accepted usage in conversational English. Nevertheless, the grammar texts universally condemn this usage in writing, claiming it creates a confusion over how many persons are being referred to in the example used as the title of this tip.

But does it create confusion? Often, I find myself using a plural “they” in my worksheets or other writing that will be given to students. In turn, I frequently find it in my students’ written work. What I do then is advise the student that, while I personally consider it acceptable usage (note the great writers above), they will find that others (especially those marking from a key) may not feel the same way!

So, each to their own ways when it comes to “they” as a plural/singular I guess!


(November 27, 2011)

See our most recent tips.

Tips from November 2001 to April 2002

Tips from September 2000 to October 2001.

Tips from January to August 2000

Tips from January to December 1999