singular they

Pronouns

ALTERNATE TITLE: Why I will not buy your tabletop RPG.

With this treatise I’m going to piss off the both the political Right and the political Left. Yay me!

I look forward to your comments… AFTER you read the whole article.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

He who controls language controls everything!

FROM MERRIAM-WEBSTER (22 SEP 2022)

he pronoun
\ ˈhē  , ē \
1: that male one who is neither speaker nor hearer
2—used in a generic sense or when the gender of the person is unspecified

The BEST recently written tabletop RPG book!

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This article is about technical writing.  It’s about the way one writes a technical manual or a tabletop RPG rulebook (which is a form of technical manual), not about how people talk to each other in casual conversation.  I don’t think anyone, myself included, uses proper English in casual conversation; let’s not forget local jargon and colloquialisms.

You see, that’s the crux of the problem. For some reason, people seem to think casual conversation is the same as professional writing.  Newsflash: It’s not!

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

Back in 2016, when I thought this phenomenon was nothing more than a fad, I started to look into this strange trend of people who insisted on using ‘they/them/their’ as singular pronouns in violation of the pronoun-antecedent agreement rules of American English.  (From this point forward I’m just going to type, English.  Know this to mean I am an American using American English.)

Sure, I knew about five year olds who talked like this.  I also I remember my parents, neighbors, teachers, et cetera correcting us when we made this mistake.  Just as we were corrected when we said, “He goes to me, ‘Hey, John, check this out.’”  For you 40-somethings, remember when kids said ‘goes’ instead of ‘says’ when quoting someone?  There was even a Charles in Charge episode which covered that topic. 🤣

As someone who has always been a decent storyteller, but a poor writer, I was forced — (yes, forced) — to take English classes in the early 2000s in order to add technical writing to my professional duties.  Wow!  I quickly learned how embarrassingly ignorant I was with regard to English.  Looking back, I don’t know how I ever graduated high school. (Oh, wait… public school… got it.)

Even now, I really struggle with comma use, the overuse of gerunds, active versus passive voice, and simply trying not to type like I speak.  Hey, in this blog post I really don’t care about those issues; however, in the technical writing portion of my job it’s a struggle.  Luckily, I keep a couple of grammar guides next to me, and there are even higher level quality control editors than me.

If you want to sound like a five year old, just say the following:

  • He don’t do that.
  • It don’t go there.
  • Anyways.
  • He played good.
  • I feel wonderful.
  • Drive safe.
  • This went bad.
  • Who did you give it to?
  • Russia was invaded by who?
  • He invited you and I.

If you don’t understand what is wrong with any of the above phrases/sentences, you should not write books without hiring an editor.  If you use those phrases in casual conversation with your friends, that’s your business; however, you sound like a child.  Hell, in casual conversation I’m sure I’m guilty of one or more of the above faux pas as well.  When you write a professional publication, such as a tech manual, that kind of  writing is not a valid option.

Then there’s this bullshit presented in academia, which really gained traction in the 1990’s, that ‘he/him’ is somehow gender biased.  Uh, no.  ‘He/him/his’ can either mean male or gender unknown. If you find this to be gender biased, you’re a mental midget and should go play in traffic, chew on arsenic, or find some other way to self-abort.   This is nothing more than grievance from people who see illusions (delusions!) everywhere and should not be taken seriously as human beings.  Seek mental help, not how to use common language.

/tangentOn

I suppose I should tangent for just a moment to get this out of the way. In case there is any doubt in your mind, I don’t not believe in, tolerate, or accept any of the postmodern, constructionist viewpoints. This includes gender as a construct, critical race theory, the 1619 Project, or other such bullshit. Those ideas are great for brainstorming sessions and useful as thought experiments, nothing more. In the world of rational science and human beings those ideas are to be rejected out of hand. If you believe in this crap, please go abort yourself tout de suite.

/tangentOff
The Players Guide and Gamemaster’s Guide are good. Then it goes to crap.

While probably not the first time I ran across this lunacy, the first time I remember the ‘they as a singular’ nonsense was when my favorite tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) transitioned from proper English to woke, activist, nonsense English.  The first two books in the series were written properly, but with the third book the Line Developer decided virtue signaling is more important than proper English.

I say proper (American) English because, at that time, the Chicago Manual of Style — (while not the only manual of style, it is the definitive manual of style for commercial publications) — had not embraced the ‘they/them’ phenomenon.  The next version of the CMoS is due to be released soon (estimated 2021), and all indications are that it will, unfortunately, embrace the ‘they/them’ in the singular nonsense.  (Because the apparent cultural pressure of 8% is stronger than rational thought.)

[September 2022 – UPDATE: The Chicago Manual of Style still uses the 2017 edition.  They/them/theirs in the singular is wrong!]

In four years of researching, discussing, and debating the use of ‘they/them/their’ as a singular pronoun, I have come to the conclusion that there are only two types of people use ‘they’ in the singular:

  1. The ignorant
  2. Activists.

Ignorance can be cured, but you have to remove yourself from the activists to do it.

I base this conclusion on multiple factors.

  1. Universities, where this crap initially took hold, are no longer places of learning, questioning, discussion and debate, but of indoctrination. This isn’t hyperbole. All you have to do is look into what’s going on in the broader university system, and look at how many people are — (finally) — starting to wizen up and homeschool their children.
  2. Activism (through virtue signaling) is now more sacred than truth. Truth is the new hate speech. Feelings are not facts, you weirdos.
  3. The truly ignorant (or lazy) can’t be bothered with being correct.

This is easily addressed through the various arguments people try to use to justify ‘they/them,’ and other uses of poor grammar.

ARGUMENT 1

“They/them has been used since the 14th Century.”

RESPONSE:

Mine own l’rd, none of us can reads! prithee provideth pictures next timeth

The 14th century argument is more of a talking point than actual truth. Did people talk like that? Yes. Was it considered correct? Well, unless you were a monk, the rules of the English language weren’t really defined all that well back then. Each village had its own way of speaking and people were more concerned with survival than going to an English class. You can’t compare the times of the 14th century to that of the 21st century.

If we’re going to cite the 14th century, let’s also remember there were no lowercase letters, no spacing between words or even sentences, and double negatives were commonplace, especially in legal arguments. Should we also remove the full stop (period) and spacing rules as well?

ARGUMENT 2

“Shakespeare used ‘they/them’ language.”

RESPONSE:

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare is considered (by some to be) a very good storyteller for his day, but there are also two other truths:

  1. He spoke to the commoners and used commoner vernacular. We’d call this casual or conversational speech today.
  2. His grammar (even for the day) was atrocious. The debate whether his use of grammar and syntax was intentional, because of his target audience, or just how he spoke is for people who care about Shakespeare more than me.

ARGUMENT 3

“‘He/him’ as gender neutral was forced on language in the mid-18th century.”

RESPONSE:

This is how a good DM treats a lady.

Which means that no one alive today, going back multiple generations, has ever lived in a time where ‘he/him’ was offensive or incorrect. Unless you were there when it happened, or maybe I’d allow an argument for the first generation after the change, you are completely unaffected by this change. This argument has no place outside of the delusions of the weak minded, who use their delusions to overreach for a potential valid argument.

  • Mankind is not an offensive word.
  • Dungeon Master is not an offensive term.
  • Foreman or mailman are not offensive terms.

If you are offended by it, you’re a weak-willed mental midget who should take medicine and receive therapy.  Not someone who should have any influence on the use of the English language. Offense was not given, it was taken. Taking things is theft.  You’re a thief and a delusional retard at the same time. Good job.  “Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right.”

ARGUMENT 4

“Merriam-Webster and the various manuals of style have changed.”

RESPONSE:

FROM MERRIAM-WEBSTER (22 SEP 2022)

he pronoun
\ ˈhē  , ē \
1: that male one who is neither speaker nor hearer
2—used in a generic sense or when the gender of the person is unspecified

Oh, really?  Can you read definition #2, please?

Back in 2018 and 2019 many faux and pseudo ‘dictionaries’ changed due to pressure from the 8% woke minority.  The same squeaky-wheel weirdos on Twitter to which moron corporations listen to in order to ruin your movies and hobbies.  An 8% minority, by the way!  This was a case of virtual signaling from avowed far-leftists who run these organizations, as well as pressure from academics.  Let’s be fair (yes, fair!) most of these academics are far left pseudo-elitists who, by virtue of never leaving their own echo chambers or never holding real jobs, think they are smarter than you and me.

This poor little guy would get you in trouble in the early 80’s.

Anyone who grew up in (or before) the 1980’s knows the story of the word, ain’t. How long did it take until that word was finally approved as a real word in Merriam-Webster?

Remember, only 8% of people identify as holding the ideology related to what we call social justice warriors (SJW). And, according to actual government census statistics, only 4.1% of all people identify as LGBTQ+, of which gay and lesbian hold the vast majority. Intersex is only 0.03%.

To be very, very clear: Each and every person, whether normal, transgender, intersex, or whatever, deserves the same rights as you and me, but they don’t get to change the language or obtain special rights. Biological (genetic) defects and bio-chemical imbalances do not deserve unique and special rights or considerations.

I will defend the right of any LGBTQ+ person to live, free from harm and overt discrimination (e.g. the ability to get a job or a house loan), as long as that person is not a pedophile.  However, I am not willing to change language or create (or accept the creation of) a new, special class for them.  Additionally, mockery is not hate. Everyone is mocked in life — for looks, actions, ideas, status, and etc.  No, you don’t get to be free from jokes and you don’t get to change the language because of your po’ widdle fee-fees.

Finally, the one true official manual of style (the Chicago Manual of Style) still hasn’t changed as of Sep 2022.  That means both Merriam Webster and CMoS indicate that “he” is gender neutral.  Anytime someone uses ‘they/them’ in the singular, that person, by definition, is incorrect.  It is improper pronoun-antecedent agreement; nothing more than activism and virtue signaling.

[Jan 2022 – UPDATE] Recently, some people have informed me that the education system mostly uses the MLA and APA styles now. This may be (sad but) true; however, the APA is an activist style guide used by psycho-babbelists, and the MLA has always been an activist style guide.

Why do I say that? The MLA gained prominence because activists in academia (particularly in the 1990’s) wanted the CMoS to change and bend to their collectivist activist will, and the CMoS wouldn’t do that.  CMoS is notorious for telling academia to ‘eff off’ and follow the guide as is; it isn’t going to change to make your life easier. (Ex. The CMoS’s requirement for active voice annoys a lot of people… including me.)

What about AP Style? (You know, the one that should ONLY involve itself in news/magazines.)  Well, AP Style — (which is different from the APA) — didn’t change to allow ‘they/them’ until 2018. So, any news article before 2018 written with they/them is, even by the standards of the activists who forced the change, wrong!

Also, AP style should only be used for captioning photographs, citing news sources, creating news headlines, etc.; concepts specific to newspapers and magazines.  It is not used (and should not be used) as the style guide for creative, narrative, or technical writing, even if the AP style guide has the bloat to to do it.  If you use the AP style guide for writing a novel or a how-to guide, you’re using the wrong tool for the job.  Let me write my great American novel in the IEEE style and see how well that goes over. 🤦‍♂️

[April 2022 – UPDATE] The Chicago Manual of Style still uses the 2017 edition.  They/them/theirs in the singular is wrong!]

ARGUMENT 5

“This is how people talk.”

RESPONSE:

How one talks in a familiar or casual atmosphere is not the same as how one writes a technical manual, or even a novel.  How I write this blog is not how I write my operations manuals.  I am, in a sense, speaking to you here more than I am writing a report.  I’m talking to you through the written word as if speaking to you personally.  How this blog is written is NOT how a technical manual is written.

My experiences in living and travelling around the world have led me to these simple conclusions.

From the modern (political) left wing, ‘they/them’ is a virtual signal. These leftist wingnuts somehow feel that ‘he,’ ‘mankind,’ and ‘dungeon master’ are ~ist-o-phobic.  As such, their opinions and thoughts on the matter are instantly invalid; their ideas should be thrown out before any more oxygen and brain power is wasted on them.  Anyone who caters to that nonsense is giving those weirdos power they don’t deserve.

Well, bless his heart…

From the right wing, I hate to say it this way, but many of them are ignorant.  I have talked to so many right wingers who tell me, “I care about fixing my cars, growing food in my garden, and watching football with my friends. I don’t care how I talk.” Once again, I don’t care how you speak to your friends. However, when you write a report, a resume, or a technical manual you simply don’t get to write like an ignorant hillbilly.

An actual response from a current employee, “I didn’t do good in English.” 🤦‍♂️ Neither did I!  But when it’s part of your job you’d best learn… quickly.  I was required to improve my English in order to receive the promotions and  jobs I desired.  This is where ignorance, instead of being cured through education, turns into pure laziness.

This same employee told me, “I’m happy for the ‘they/them’ change, now people can stop correcting me when I say it.” Instead of correcting himself, he’s relieved that he’s allowed to talk like a five year old.

As you lean toward the middle of the modern Left/Right political spectrum, you find the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  Most of them don’t see a problem with using ‘he’ as gender neutral, and they don’t understand — (maybe the word ‘care’ is better than ‘understand’) — why ‘manhole cover’ is now considered offensive by some.  However, since those activist weirdos are screaming the loudest, these middle-of-the-road folks simply go along with it. “Oh, it’s changed? People are offended by it? Sure, I guess.”

Again, if you don’t recognize what’s wrong in the following bullets, hire an editor!

  • He don’t do that.
  • It don’t go there.
  • Anyways.
  • He played good.
  • I feel wonderful.
  • Drive safe.
  • This went bad.
  • Who did you give it to?
  • Russia was invaded by who?
  • He invited you and I.

ARGUMENT 6

“People write like they speak.”

This is sometimes followed up with, “self-publishing removes the need for an editor,” or “Now I’m allowed to communicate more naturally.”

RESPONSE:

This is just another way of saying one or more of the following:

WTF?
  • “Language changes over time.”
  • “English is so screwed up there aren’t any actual rules.”
  • “I’m too lazy to write properly, so I’ll use a bullshit excuse to rationalize my laziness.”

The quality of most self-published books is crap.  Game manuals, reference books, and technical manuals aren’t to be written like blogs or journals, they are to follow known standards.  English has rules.  How you talk to your friends is one thing, how you write a book must follow standards because of it’s much greater reach.

Put a person from northern Minnesota next to a Cajun from Louisiana, an urbanite from Los Angeles, and a rural country Tennessean and all four of them will seem like they are speaking different languages.  However, they can all read a novel — (well, maybe not the person from Tennessee 🤣 I kid! I kid!) — because there are unified standards of English used to write the novel.

ARGUMENT 7

“English is a bastard language that changes all of the time.”

RESPONSE

Still easier to read than a text message.

All languages are bastard languages.  Latin is no longer spoken, but there are many languages derived from it.  Again, it took centuries for the language to disappear, the same with old English.  Yes, one day in the future, how we talk today will disappear (well, maybe not due to the Internet, but it will fade and change). However, you don’t get to jam new, nonsensical grammar down my throat because some weirdo’s fee-fees were presumed to be hurt.

Yes, language changes.  Every year new words are added to our lexicon.  This is normal and natural.  Also, good luck understanding anyone or any writing from 14th century England.  However, language changes over the course of decades, not overnight.  Also, change must have some purpose.  The most often cited purpose for ‘they/them’ is gender neutrality.  Even if your ignorance doesn’t allow you to accept ‘he/him’ as gender neutral, there are plenty of other ways of being gender neutral. I cite multiple examples below (after the arguments).

ARGUMENT 8

“With the Internet language changes faster.”

RESPONSE:

I wholeheartedly disagree with this.  In fact, with near universal access to the Internet, it is much easier to solidify the use of language. If we all have access to it, and we all use the same official source material, there’s no excuse for unnecessary changes, differences, and deviations.

ARGUMENT 9

To use or not to use, that is the question.

“Why can’t you just have good manners and use a person’s preferred pronouns?”

RESPONSE:

Because people don’t get to prefer pronouns; they don’t get to compel speech from me.  These pronoun changes only affect how others talk (3rd person).  Pronouns have a standardized use in the English language, have the good manners to use them.

I don’t care if you are normal, transgender, intersex, or whatever. If you present yourself as a woman, I’ll call you ‘she.’ If you present yourself as a man (full beard, Adam’s apple, deep voice, etc), I’ll call you ‘he.’  I couldn’t care less what you want to be called.  The language has already determined what you are called — your feelings on this matter are irrelevant.

SOME EXAMPLES


Are you still not convinced the change is stupid and not needed?  Fine, I will show you some examples of how to write in a gender neutral format with proper pronoun-antecedent agreement, and without the need for baby-talk woke language.

As you read these examples, remember this article specifically targets how one writes in a technical manual — (e.g. the rulebook for a game) — not how people use local vernacular to talk to each other.  Also, the intent is to change the original (example) writer’s sentence as little as possible.

These are actual sentences and examples I received from people.  They were intended to be ‘gotchya’ sentences, where ‘they/them’ is supposed to be the only or clearest option.  These people were wrong.

EXAMPLE 1:

“Somebody left their umbrella in the office. Could you please let them know where they can get it?”

BEST FIX:

This depends if or what you know about the person who left it in the office.

“Somebody left an umbrella in the office. Could you please let everyone know where it is.”

“Somebody left an umbrella in the office. Could you please let that person know where to get it?”

REASON:

Stop overusing pronouns. Apparently, the overuse of pronouns has become more acceptable as well.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say ‘their’ when the correct word is ‘the.’

ALSO CORRECT:

“Somebody left his umbrella in the office. Could you please let him know where he can get it?”

MORE FOLLOW-UP:
INDEFINITE PRONOUNS (SINGULAR)

Indefinite pronouns refer to nonspecific persons or things. These indefinite pronouns include: Any, each, everyone, none, someone, anybody, either, everything, no one, something, anyone, everybody, and neither.  Even though some indefinite pronouns have plural meanings, treat them as grammatically singular.  (This is not my personal opinion or view, this is from the rules of English grammar!)

Incorrect:

  • Everyone in my English class does their homework.

Correct singular:

  • Everyone in my English class does his home work.
  • Everyone in my English class does his or her homework.

Correct plural:

  • All of the students in my English class do their homework.

If homework isn’t tied to the individual who does it, you could (should!) write:

  • All of the students in my English class do homework.

EXAMPLE 2:

“The patient should be told at the outset how much they will be required to pay.”

‘The patient’ is singular, thus pronoun-antecedent agreement would indicate the use of ‘their’ is wrong.

BEST FIX:

“Patients should be told at the outset how much they will be required to pay.”

REASON:

Since it’s a generalized statement, and because the office (hopefully!) has more than one patient, the use of patients in the plural context is correct.  In the case of one specific (but anonymous) patient:

“Payment should be discussed with the patient at the outset.”

  • Oh, look!  No pronoun is even needed.
ALSO CORRECT:

“The patient should be told at the outset how much he will be required to pay.”

“The patient should be told at the outset how much he or she will be required to pay.”

EXAMPLE 3:

This example is pulled directly from one of the books I reference when writing.

“A student is very fortunate if they have a job waiting for them after graduation.”

BEST FIX:

“Students are very fortunate if they have a job waiting for them after graduation.”

“Students are very fortunate if they have jobs waiting for them after graduation.”

REASON:

Again, this is a generalized statement; use the plural form.

In the case of one specific (but anonymous) student:

  • “The student is very fortunate if he has a job waiting for him after graduation.”
  • “The student is very fortunate if he or she has a job waiting for him or her after graduation.”

This is actually an example from the University of Hawaii’s English department, so it’s not just me who says ‘they’ is wrong.

EXAMPLE 4:

In this example, the person stated he didn’t want to potentially disrupt the investigation by assuming the killer’s gender.

A coroner speaking to a detective about a possible attacker, “We have determined their blade to be about seven inches long.”

BEST FIX:

“We have determined the blade to be about seven inches long.”

REASON:

Pronoun use isn’t even appropriate in this sentence.  Again, ‘the’ is a better word than ‘their.’

ACTUAL BEST:

“The blade was about seven inches long.”

REASON:

Technical manuals (rulebooks and reports) should get to the point.

FINAL COMMENTS

You have got to check out Degenesis, even if only for the artwork.

He who controls language controls everything!  This is not the only language issue, but it is one of the many language issues that plague us.  Anyone who accepts they in the singular cannot (in good faith) argue there are only two sexes/genders.  There are only two genders and anomalies of those two genders: male, female, agender (neither), intersex (both).

Let me repeat: In this article, I specifically target how one writes in a technical manual — (e.g. the rulebook for a game) — not how people use local vernacular to talk to each other.

If you use ‘they/them’ in the singular, you are either ignorant or you are virtue signaling. It is wholly unneeded and useless as a concept.  This nonsense is only ‘demanded’ by the ignorant, or people who don’t have any real problems in life so they have to invent some.  Ignorance can be cured through education, I know I needed it — (and still need it, in the case of commas); virtue signalers are to be ignored like children in time-out.

Whether it’s mandated by my job, required at a convention, or expected in a neighbor’s domicile, I will never use ‘they’ in the singular. Don’t like it? Well, I have 250-ish years of English on my side. You only have your pathetic feelings. While your friends and family probably care about your feelings, and they should, in the real world (outside of friends and family) no one cares about your feelings.

And don’t get me started on “neo-pronouns.”  Go fuck yourself, I will never use them.

ENTITIES & ORGANIZATIONS

I didn’t type about it above, but I also want to point out that entities, such as Ford Motor Company, use the pronoun ‘it’ not ‘they.’

  • “Ford’s stock price went down today after it revealed…”

    Tim Pool
  • “Dell released its new product today.”
  • “Amazon is opening its fourth warehouse in…”
  • “The NFL said its new policy on…”
  • “In its article, Newsweek wrote…”
    • Yeah, Tim Pool, this is for you!
  • “France invaded its neighbor.”
    • On the other hand, “The French invaded their neighbor.”
    • Notice the difference?