The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Hell in a handbasket, grammar division


I've pretty much given up my increasingly quixotic quest to ensure that the initial capital is preserved in writing about "the Internet"—see "It's the Internet," More on 'the Internet' " and "The History of the Internet, Typography Division." And now it appears that another domino is falling: the "singular 'they' "—as in "Each Elector may pick their own candidate for president," or this tweet from none other than PEOTUS Donald Trump:


"Nobody" and "each elector," of course, are singular, while "they" is plural. Not good. But this usage was chosen as 2015's "Word of the Year" by the American Dialect Society, and The Washington Post—our host here at the VC—has capitulated as well, having added the singular "they" to its style guide.

Yes, we need a gender-neutral pronoun to use instead of "his" or "her" or "his/her" or "his or her." But "they" and "their" are already in use, as gender-neutral plural pronouns. "Hesh"—as in "Each Elector may pick hesh own candidate for president"—gets my vote, and I'm sticking with it, style guide be damned.