A Need for Evolutionary Change in the English Language

When writing about people and not wanting to be gender specific, have you ever felt torn between which personal pronouns you should use? Should I go with he, him, and his, or she and her? Sometimes we awkwardly go with he or she, him or her, and his or her. In my experience, when this occurs over and over again throughout a book, I feel an interruption in the flow of the story or the book’s message. In our desperation of being politically correct, we sometimes resort to improper usage of the pronouns them and their. This practice also feels awkward to me. Some authors will give up on the use of pronouns altogether and fill their paragraphs with such phrases as “one thinks” and “one’s thoughts”. This can come across as very impersonal, possibly causing a loss of connection between these authors and their readers.

As an editor, I struggle with this dilemma myself. When non-specific pronouns have been necessary in an author’s work, I’ve found that switching back and forth between the different options sometimes creates the best flow in a manuscript. We can continue to work around this awkward characteristic of the English language; or we can consciously allow our language to evolve. Not only is this change needed to create better flow in our written works, I propose that as our culture is evolving so should our language.

Have you ever seen someone and been unable to determine whether the person is male or female? Some people are simply born with a seemingly equal balance of both male and feminine characteristics and energies. Recently, I found myself in the awkward position of not knowing whether to identify a new acquaintance as him or her. I could not tell which pronoun was befitting and I was concerned about offending this person. In this particular case, the individual was making a transition from one gender to the other; and I didn’t know which was which. There are others who identify with no particular gender. For some people, gender is simply not an important issue; and we quite possibly could be evolving into a society that places little importance on gender.

I would like to see us create respectful, non-gender specific, singular pronouns in order to solve this dilemma and create better flow in our manuscripts and our conversations.  As a very feminine heterosexual woman, I would not be so presumptuous as to suggest pronouns that might lead to this evolution in the English language. Since I have no clue what possible pronouns might be regarded as respectful, I’m interested in the opinion of representatives from the LGBT community.

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