I was disappointed to see a favorite storybook from my childhood has been edited. (Harry, the Dirty Dog; ISBN-13: 978-0064430098) I distinctly remember the text written as follows:

...but everyone shook his head and said, "Oh, no, it couldn't be Harry."

I was taught that the male gender form takes precedence, when speaking several individuals of each gender. However, the book was edited to read,

...but everyone shook his head their head and said, "Oh, no, it couldn't be Harry."

ARGH! Please assure me that the original version and I are correct! There are some other minor edits that have simply ruined the book for me. (My linguistic snobbery helped, too.)


3 Answers 3


I believe the edited version is incorrect.
It should be "but everyone shook their head" (singular head, for each individual. Unless you're dealing with a hydra :P)

The male dominance in pluralisation that you mentioned is still correct, but is avoided to not offend feminists, and will likely be phased out for the same reason.

  • 1
    I disagree that there is anything "incorrect" about the edited version. Language is how it is used, not how some logician abstractly thinks about it.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 14:38
  • 1
    JORDAAN: Please note I corrected the pluralization error. Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 20:40
  • The edited version uses thier not his, as a matter of fact, which contradicts with your answer.
    – Noah
    Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 3:16

Everyone shook his head? That might result into a headache. Everyone shook their heads is correct.

  • There is a decent distinction being made here but my guess is that the downvote came from confusion about what, exactly, you were trying to point out.
    – MrHen
    Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 15:25
  • Just for clarification, "Everyone shook his head". That means that everyone shook his head.
    – alexyorke
    Commented Apr 11, 2011 at 18:53
  • <Wah wah wahhhh> The trump of irony sounds! Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 16:33

Better to recast the sentence.

The audience found their seats.

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