I’ve been talking a lot lately about the looming civil war between the King and Queen of the Fairies because it’s the focus of my latest book – Fighting Mad.
Imagine my shock when I got back to school after the holidays and found another conflict unleashed! The American Dialect Society has named ‘they’ as the word of the year – as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun!
Okay, for those of you who are not grammar nerds, this means “Everyone wants their cat to succeed” is now correct instead of ““Everyone wants his or her cat to succeed.” The change is in recognition of changing usage over time, probably spurred on in part by a growing awareness of the fluid nature of sexuality and gender identification.
Now, as a teacher, I’m in a quandary. We’re waiting for the Library Association to weigh in before changing grades. As a writer, it’s a bit of a relief. It’s awkward to describe something that could apply to anyone without using a possessive pronoun, so it’s nice not to have to use two.
But as a writer, I also recognize the importance of being able to write around an awkward scene, to change up wording until I get something that works. I stumbled across this handy cheat sheet for one of my biggest challenges – how to describe a simple action that happens over and over, a simple gesture that conveys so much – without sounding like a parrot! Many thanks to the person or persons who created it!
Where do you stand on the issue of possessive pronouns? Do you think it’s okay to use the singular, formerly plural, ‘their’ instead of ‘his or her’ and why?