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I wrote the following sentence in an answer to an anonymous reviewer:

We would like to thank again the reviewer for the positive review and hope that the new version of the text meets their expectations.

I don't know if the reviewer is male or female. So, I thought that I could use their instead of his or her following what is explained here.

My co-author, seems to think that it is wrong to write it like that.

Is he right? If yes, how can I transform my sentence into a correct one?

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  • Read the "Acceptability and prescriptive guidance" section in the Wikipedia entry "singular they" you've mentioned.
    – Stan
    Sep 19, 2015 at 18:53
  • If this is written to the reviewer, why is it in the third person at all? Using the second person there is no gender distinction to worry about in " you".
    – neil
    Sep 19, 2015 at 22:18

3 Answers 3

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There is considerable debate about this, as you can see here and here

HOWEVER, the usage of their as the gender-ambiguous singular is common enough that it would probably be acceptable for your situation. Also see this answer

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  • I will change it into "his or her" as suggested by your linked answer and by @Gigi. Thank you for your answer.
    – Surb
    Sep 19, 2015 at 20:21
  • Could you please cite the references/examples properly? Hyperlinks die. Sep 19, 2015 at 21:21
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We would like to thank again the reviewer for the positive review and hope that the new version of the text meets their expectations.

I like changing "their" to "his or her" to clarify the meaning of the sentence. By using "his or her" the reader would infer that you want to thank one specific reviewer not several. Contrast this sentence with the example given on the website link referred to above, "When I greet a friend, I hug them." A reader would infer from the use of the pronoun "them" that you have several friends whom you might greet.

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    That just opens up a can of worms when people berate you for not choosing "her or his" instead. "Their" is unambiguous and safe. Why not use it? "A reader would infer from the use of the pronoun "them" that you have several friends whom you might greet." No, not if they understood the sentence properly! Sep 19, 2015 at 21:22
  • They would not infer that because of the subject "friend" Sep 20, 2015 at 1:01
  • @Lightness I agree with you, but in terms of grammaticality, their is never correct. It's always better to use his or her. And them itself refers to multiple subjects, but only some people take it implicitly as one subject.
    – Adam
    Sep 20, 2015 at 7:14
  • @Adam: "their is never correct" You are mistaken. Sep 20, 2015 at 15:21
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The Wikipedia article is correct. His or her would be reduced by most editors looking to clarify writing. Think of your own question, which shows this: "My co-author seems to..." "Is he right?" You know the gender, so you used "he". As you state in your question, you don't know the gender of the reviewer. If you had not wanted to reveal the gender of your coworker, you would have automatically used "Are THEY right?" We use they for indeterminate subjects.

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  • I wish that I "would have automatically used "Are THEY right?"". Unfortunately my english is not good enough yet to have such reflex. I'll try to learn on the way :).
    – Surb
    Sep 20, 2015 at 9:38

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