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Ten to five years ago I was reading MSDN Magazine, and in a few articles I stumbled upon sentences like "The user should... She needs to...", with "she" referring to the user. Unfortunately I can't find anymore the original quotes, but this was the gist of them. Now, English is not my native language (French is), and I wondered then why was the author using "she" where I would have used "he" or (even then) "they".

I know there are related questions here, but I don't think mine is exactly a duplicate. What I'm really asking here is whether "she" may have been considered in the recent past a more inclusive pronoun than "he".

It seems that - at least according to SE Code of Conduct - singular "they" is nowadays an acceptable default when nothing is known about someone's gender preference. My intuition is that a few years ago using "she" may have been a - maybe American English - attempt for inclusiveness, but I'd really like to hear the opinion of native speakers on this feeling of mine.

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  • Among some people and usually even within this group only for a short time. Singular they is, I believe, the preferred usage today (you could give a link to this). Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 14:05
  • @EdwinAshworth, I already tended to use "they" as the English equivalent of French "on" (which is a sort of neutral plural or singular pronoun in French), but SE CoC indicates singular "they" as the preferred default pronoun until someone requests a more suitable one for their particular case. I hope my rephrasing and links make this § more accurate.
    – odalet
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 14:17
  • In school (northwest US) in the 2000s I was encouraged to use 'she' instead of 'he' for generic/abstract persons – but with full awareness this was not the norm. Even in the 2000s there was much less public awareness/acceptance of being non-binary, so the use of she was less about inclusivity than about undermining patriarchy
    – Unrelated
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 14:22
  • @Unrelated: this is interesting; I seem to recall the author of these articles was a man, maybe this was a (subtle) way of expressing his sponsorship of feminism (rather than global inclusivity).
    – odalet
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 15:00
  • @EdwinAshworth, while there are respectable reasons for using singular they, and while many respectable people follow that practice, many other respectable people continue to consider it objectionable; I thus don't think that it can be said that it is the preferred usage today.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 15:12

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