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I have the following sentence:

In order to read the remainder of this book, the reader is advised to familiarize themselves with the concepts contained within this Chapter.

I want to put:

In order to read the remainder of this book, the reader is advised to familiarize themself with the concepts contained within this Chapter.

In this very great article here, it explains why you should use themself only in an informal context, and the sentence they gave supports this, however; In the sentence I have, it sounds plain wrong (as sometimes proper English tends to sound, admittedly), despite what they say. Should I still use themselves, because it is in a proper context, or am I able to use themself instead, despite its proper context?

marked as duplicate by anongoodnurse, tchrist, Andrew Leach Dec 31 '14 at 6:50

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  • You would be correct in the latter example, and sound correct in the former. Me, myself; we, ourselves; he, himself; they (sing), themself, they (pl), themselves. The unsung value of singular ‘themself’. Because of gender neutrality, it's making a comeback. – anongoodnurse Dec 31 '14 at 4:37
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The singular "they" and its spawn are notoriously frustrating and controversial. Because your question is about what you "should" do, I would suggest a reasonable workaround:

In order to read the remainder of this book, the reader is advised to become familiar with the concepts contained within this Chapter.

I believe your understanding of what is acceptable, in terms of the reflexive pronoun, is correct. However, in most cases it is relatively easy to sidestep the conundrum altogether.

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The word you want is himself. Himself is the reflexive pronoun for someone of unknown sex.

Try: To read this book, the reader should learn the concepts contained within this Chapter.

Try: To read the rest of this book, the reader should familiarize herself with this chapter.

Try: Before reading further, you should learn this chapter thoroughly.

  • 1
    Downvoted? Those who have done so are quite odd in mind. – Vexerciser Dec 31 '14 at 7:29
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    To pretend that you are unaware that many people object to the practice of assuming masculine gender, and that even more people (probably including the OP, given the link provided in the question) at least try not to bother the people who do object, and that there is widespread agreement on the appropriateness of "they" (also clear from the link in the question), all seems a bit disingenuous. (I wasn't the downvoter, but I can understand that someone would feel that this answer is either naive or anti-compassionate.) – Matt Feb 23 '15 at 22:14

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