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Opinion
Megan McArdle

They Say You Should Break This Grammar Rule

The attempted abolition of singular "they" was a hypercolossal blunder by 18th- and 19th-century fusspots.
Indeed.
Indeed.

Yesterday, I got into a bit of a discussion in the comments section over the use of the singular “they.” People go into a frenzy whenever you use it, and when you challenge the rule, they cling to it as if their very position in the American Society of Grammar Pedants depended upon it.

Let me make my position clear: In situations with a generic singular antecedent, "they" is not OK. It is preferable. The attempted abolition of singular "they" was a hypercolossal blunder by 18th- and 19th-century fusspots who thought grammar should follow the same sort of simple rules as a steam engine, that Latin and Greek grammars were a good model for English diction, and that in public-facing activity, men absorbed the women in their circle like a sort of social sponge. We should stop perpetuating their error. We should rip this rule from our grammar texts and obliterate it from our stylebooks. We should fling it down and dance upon it.