He/She and Him/Her

The English language does not have a neutral, gender-free pronoun to use when applying something to both sexes. The French are lucky: they have one.
He = il
She = elle
He/She = on, also translated as “one”

Pesky Examples:
If a driver sees a traffic light turning yellow, _____ should slow down, not speed up.
If an employee has a heart attack, the first thing to do is call an ambulance for _____.

Because drivers and employees can be either male or female, using “he” or “him” in all such situations may seem sexist, even if the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of males in the oil industry. On the other hand, using “he/she” and “him/her” too often on the same page can sound very stuffy and impersonal.  A better way is to use “he or she” and “him or her” or possibly even “one,” if it sounds
right.

One thing NOT to do is to use “they” or “them,” because that is a plural pronoun, and thus it would not agree with the singular noun in the first half of the sentence.

Here are some tricks for rewriting the sentence to make it sound better, thereby sidestepping the him/her business.

Rewritten Examples:
If one sees a traffic light turning yellow, one should slow down, not speed up.
If an employee has a heart attack, the first thing to do is call an ambulance for that person.

If drivers see a traffic light turning yellow, they should slow down, not speed up.
Here the plural pronoun “they” agrees with the plural noun “drivers,” which is OK.

And if one is ever stuck and can’t figure out a way to rewrite a particular sentence, one can always send it to me and I’ll answer that person in my next Tip of the Day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: