Use gender-neutral pronouns#

Don’t use gender-specific pronouns unless the person you’re referring to is actually that gender. A good general rule is that only when the singular noun does not specify an individual it can be replaced with a plural pronoun.

In particular, don’t use he, him, his, she, or her as gender-neutral pronouns, and don’t use he/she or (s)he or other such punctuational approaches. Instead, use they or its derivative forms (their, theirs, them, or themselves) as a singular pronoun. Following are some examples:

  • Tell the next caller they need to forward the status.

  • Every account manager should thank their customer.

  • Who left their laptop opened and unsecured?

In these sentences, we’re talking about one person, but we don’t know whether that person is male or female. In the past, people might have written “Tell the next caller he needs to forward the status” or “Tell the next caller he or she need to forward the status. But recently, acceptance of the pronoun they or their in sentences similar to these is moving forward. (Singular they is actually an old pattern in English.)

But if you really don’t like using singular they or their, rewrite the sentence avoiding singular nouns. Using plurals can often help, as shown in the following example:

Use:

Programmers should save their code frequently.

Instead of:

The programmer should be careful to save their code frequently.