Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Me or You? He or They? AntiNouns or ProNouns?

Here are lines from one of my current students:
A software engineer got very aggressive when I approached to question them on their progress.  When the issues were settled, they told me that they felt I was attacking them as a person which lead to their defensiveness.
 For reasons that I do not understand, identifying people by gender has fallen out of favour.  In this case, the software engineer was male and for easy readability, I suggested changing all the plural pronouns to singular male pronouns.  Please!! 

him, his, he, he him, his

Even transgender people usually prefer to be labelled by their desired gender.

There's also a spelling error in the above student lines.  Can you find it?
One assignment that I gave my students was to write a letter of appreciation to someone who had helped build the student's self-esteem.  One student wrote to a teacher who consistently left her feeling degraded and inadequate:
After getting through my horrible year as your student, I realized that I am capable of handling difficult situations and there’s no reason to be insecure when you’re trying to learn something new. Now when I find myself facing a challenge, I think of how I got through your class and it gives me the confidence to succeed. I also understand that there will be people in your life that may not be the nicest, but you need to find a way to deal with it because that is how things are sometimes.
 I wasn't exactly sure whether my student was mocking the assignment or was genuinely grateful to the teacher for her cruelty.  I suggested she send the letter, after she fix the pronouns.  The blue words are correct.  The ones in yellow should be in first person:  I'm, my, I.

Pay attention to pronoun consistency, especially if you want to write better (dammit).

Note:  There is considerable discussion about eliminating singular genderized pronouns and replacing those pronouns with the plural or with new pronouns like "ter," "het," or "ze."

I suggest that in face-to-face speech anything is possible, since the listener can say, "What do you mean?"  Writing is best when there is no ambiguity, when the reader can read smoothly from one sentence to the next.  If you choose to move away from genderized pronouns, a note of explanation would help the reader.

"lead" should be "led"

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