Growing up, many of us were often chastised or corrected for using the word “they” as a singular pronoun. But with many people adopting “they” as a personal pronoun, it was only a matter of time before changes to our lexicon occurred. Starting with the 7th Edition of the American Psychological Association (APA)’s Publication Manual, the APA endorses the use of “they” as a singular pronoun.
What is the singular “they,” you ask?
It is a generic third-person pronoun. You’ve probably used it without realizing it, usually in informal conversation, like “oh, they’re over there,” when you’re only talking about one person. Prior to the 7th edition of the APA manual, in scholarly publications, writers would often write “his or her” when talking about a generic person or individual. With the new edition, it is perfectly acceptable to use “they” in a scholarly paper.
Why use “they?”
If you’re trying to avoid having readers make gendered assumptions about a person or subject or if you’re not sure of the pronouns of a person, you might use the singular “they.” It is a more inclusive pronoun and can be applied to anyone. Individuals who are nonbinary also use the pronoun “they.” Some genderqueer individuals also use this pronoun.
How do I use the singular “they?”
When “they” is the subject of a sentence, the verb is plural, even if it is a singular “they.” You still write “they are going to the movies,” rather than “they is going to the movies.” Check out what Merriam-Webster has to say about it here. You can also check out the APA style and grammar guidelines about the singular “they” here.
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