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What’s Your Pronoun?

What’s Your Pronoun?

February 18, 2021 By Christine Steele Resources

I didn’t think too much about personal pronouns until this past spring, and now they are on my mind often. I’ve learned the importance of why they matter. The copyediting courses I teach online were moved to a new learning management system, Canvas, in April. Canvas offers a drop-down menu in the settings to choose your personal pronouns, if you’d like to share them. They are then included beside your name when you post on the discussion board.

Sometimes people might make assumptions about the gender of another person based on that person’s appearance or name. Using someone’s correct personal pronoun is a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, even online.

Besides they, which was Merriam-Webster’s 2019 Word of the Year, there are alternatives to using he and she when someone’s gender is unknown or when they are not simply male or female. They is not the only option. There are less-familiar pronouns, such as ze, zir, and hir, but singular they has become a pronoun of choice for many. It’s important to become familiar with other pronouns.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation points out that being misgendered can be hurtful, angering, and even distracting. Everyone should have the option of expressing their preferred name or personal pronoun, and the way this is communicated may vary across settings—formal vs. informal, email vs. in-person/virtual meetings, name badges, business cards, and so on.

The following is what I’ve learned from a training session, along with some excellent resources, about the different types of pronouns and how to use them.

Here are some fun facts in the book:

  1. Singular they first appeared in 1375.
  2. It was once a common pronoun for infants, but it’s rarely used today. As for adults, though, it has been used since the 16th century as a way to insult, dehumanize, or mock a person.
  3. In 1850, hiser was coined as a blend of his and her.
  4. Gender-neutral and nonbinary pronouns have been on Sephora ads and Oreo cookie packaging. Oreo promoted “Pronoun Packs” for PrideFest in 2019 to celebrate inclusivity.

As Baron says in his book, even though some words may seem to include others, they may also exclude them. And not all languages treat gender the same way.

Better understanding language and its origins, and using language correctly, can help us be courteous and respectful to others while also leading us toward being more effective and respectful editors ourselves.

What’s Your Pronoun? was originally published in Tracking Changes (Fall 2020 edition). Members receive a PDF of the quarterly Tracking Changes newsletter by email.

Header photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash. 

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