They is just sayin’
As most of my regular readers already know, I’m a retired editor. And as you might have guessed, I have followed — with considerable consternation — the discussions and explanations regarding the use of they as a singular pronoun. I am well aware that is has been used as a singular pronoun for hundreds of years. I am also aware that the Associated Press, the Chicago Manual of Style, and several dictionaries have condoned its use as a singular pronoun. And I understand the reasons why some individuals prefer to be called “they” rather than “he” or “she.”
However, none of that changes the fact that for thirty years I carefully edited or wrote around the use of they as a singular pronoun. And in formal, written English I will continue to do so. Yes, in casual speech and probably in casual writing, I’ve used it as a singular pronoun. For example: “Somebody left their book on the desk.”
But I draw the line at certain usages. Recently, while searching for information about an actor, I found the following in Wikipedia: “Rebecca Edison ‘Bex’ Taylor-Klaus is an American actor. They rose to fame for their starring role as Bullet on the crime drama series The Killing.”
No. Just no. I’d have rewritten that, perhaps as “Rebecca Edison ‘Bex’ Taylor-Klaus is an American actor who rose to fame in the starring role of Bullet on the crime drama series ‘The Killing.'”
In any case, it was that particular trampling of my professional sensibilities that caused me to comment today. I shall continue in my old-fashioned ways and if you find that objectionable, console yourself with the fact that I am now retired and won’t be editing your writing.