I understand pronouns and their antecedents must agree (a singular pronoun must have a singular antecedent, and a plural pronoun must have a plural antecedent). However, I can not find an elegant writing option for singular pronouns, such as someone or everyone, without sounding gender biased.


"Everyone evacuated the city because he didn't want to expose himself to the deadly virus."

The above example may be correct but will sound gender biased to modern educated readers. If readers find the writing gender biased, they will be distracted from the content of the writing; thus, the writing will be rendered ineffective.

So modern tastes dictate the following:

"Everyone evacuated the city because he/she didn't want to expose himself/herself to the deadly virus."

The second example solves the gender bias problem but introduces the problem of clunky and graceless writing. The messiness of he/she, his/her, and himself/herself distracts readers (myself included). This gender unbiased writing is equally as ineffective as gender biased writing.

Is there an elegant solution that would allow pronouns and antecedents to agree without introducing gender bias or clunky writing?

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    The short answer is the singular they. That's the most elegant solution the language has come up with. If there were a better one, we'd be using it. But singular they has taken the crown. – Dan Bron Jul 20 '17 at 17:31
  • Adding to @DanBron, If your construction allows you to switch to plural, you have solved all problems. Then, "People evacuated the city because they didn't want to expose themselves to the deadly virus." Another variation: "Everyone evacuated the city to avoid the deadly virus." – Yosef Baskin Jul 20 '17 at 19:04
  • "If readers find the writing gender biased, they will be distracted from the content of the writing; thus, the writing will be rendered ineffective." Lol, okay then. – AleksandrH Jul 20 '17 at 19:10
  • Adding to the "they" comments above, I would say that the switch to "they" has already happened and that documents or articles using "he", "himself" generically already appear dated and likely will look almost as strange as "thee" and "thou" 50 years out. People will understand them in context, but there will be a corollary suggestion that the associated thoughts belong to a prior era and thus weaken the other rational arguments presented by association. – Tom22 Jul 20 '17 at 19:16
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    @AleksandrH Conveying ideas is probably more about rhetoric than grammar in my opinion. Chewing that argument over is beyond this forum, but it's an old subject, going back to ancient Greece. We've both put in our input for the benefit of the OP to consider. – Tom22 Jul 20 '17 at 19:39

Yes, there is an elegant solution (multiple, actually), but it's worth emphasizing that gender-biased writing is not a problem in the first place. If your writing lacks substance, no amount of gender neutrality will correct it.


Everyone evacuated the city to avoid exposure to the deadly virus.

Edit: just saw that Yosef had actually posted something similar in the comments, so I'll offer a few alternatives

The city was evacuated to minimalize casualties from the deadly virus.

People fled the city to escape the deadly virus.

Authorities evacuated the city to minimize exposure to the deadly virus.

You get the point.

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it is the neuter pronoun of third person, corresponding to the masculine he and feminine she, and having the same plural (they, their or theirs, them)

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    You can't use it with people; it's dehumanizing. It's worse to call someone an it than to assign the wrong gender. This is not a solution. – Dan Bron Jul 20 '17 at 18:57
  • @DanBron Of course that I can use that pronoun with people. dehumanizing? no. Genderless? yes. "it" is the neuter pronoun. – Alex Sarmiento Jul 20 '17 at 19:13
  • Oh look, @AlexSarmiento responded to me. It's so misguided that it's almost charming. – Dan Bron Jul 20 '17 at 19:14
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    Okay, so I suppose I will not be crucified if I attend, say, an LGBT pride event, point to a transgender person, and say "Hey, do you know it? I like the dress it has on." I second @DanBron here. It is objectively far worse. – AleksandrH Jul 20 '17 at 19:28
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    @AleksandrH You don't even need a LGBT parade. Just try that at the office or your next family function. No one likes to be referred to as it. The word isn't used for people. – Dan Bron Jul 20 '17 at 19:30

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