Does the use of "[s]he" as a gender-neutral pronoun prompt eye-rolling in the reader or is it generally accepted? I know it cannot be pronounced, but it seems to me a helpful contraction in written speech. Of course the sentence can be restructured, one can use formations such as "he or she," etc. but are such machinations necessary?


It looks bureaucratic. The sort of thing you might find in a legal contract. The endless squabbling about English's lack of a gender neutral pronoun has taught us that there are few good solutions and no universal ones.

Most people have little to no idea how hard the editorial class labors to solve this puzzle in published text. When we get it right, the reader doesn't notice at all because the solution is elegant and natural - usually some combination of approaches that, taken together, appear unforced.

Something like "(s)he" lacks subtlety and charm, it looks alien, as if were manufactured in a laboratory. You'd use it in printed instructions for assembling a bicycle, but not in a work of prose or poesy.


What is your standard for "generally accepted"? If you ask ten different people I expect you'll get at least five different answers.

For what it's worth, the AP stylebook argues that the preferred form is "he or she", because "s/he" and "[s]he" are not pronounceable. It also suggests that it's far better to try and restructure the sentence to avoid the problem entirely (for instance, by making the subject plural so you can instead use the word "they").

  • 1
    +1 : What is your standard for "generally accepted" – user8568 May 15 '11 at 18:16

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