The Singular “They”
As a professional, academically trained writer and history geek, I’ve made the conscious decision to adopt the gender-neutral singular “they” for three main reasons.
- It’s far less clunky than any of the workarounds in common use today.
- It alienates no one except hardcore grammandos (grammar snobs).
- It’s supported by historical precedent… lots of it.
Also, while many opponents to the singular “they” claim that this usage is too ambiguous for coherent writing. I’d counter that argument by noting that the pronoun “you” can be either singular and plural, yet it somehow manages to escape this same criticism.
The theory of cognitive dissonance (pioneered by the great Leon Festinger) states that the condition in which the mind attempts to hold two contradictory beliefs is painful and must be resolved to return to a state of equilibrium. We do this in one of two ways: resolution and rationalization.