Monday, August 29, 2016

Is singular “they” OK?

In the world of words, one of the most persistent questions is: “Is it OK to use the word ‘they’ (or ‘their’, or ‘them’) as a singular pronoun?”

Is it?

Many grammarians these days say it is OK. (Most of us are using it anyways, even unconsciously.) The Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press discourage it. 

Others insist that the singular “they” is social justice for people who don’t identify as either male or female...and one’s opinion on the matter, like too many other social justice tropes, has become a tool to separate the woke from the worst.

But...we’re talking about two different issues here.

One is respecting someone’s requested personal pronouns. If a person wants to be called “they/them/their,” following that request is not being “politically correct.” It is simply good manners.

The other is using it in general writing. When creating newsletters for a client, I would proofread the Word doc sent to me and rewrite examples of the singular “they,” as follows:

[It] would be physically impossible for one person to have his or her [originally: their] finger near enough to the pulse of each and every market to do any good

[The] way average Americans [originally: the average American] can generate 20% to 30% returns on their investment

Sellers [originally: A seller] will never allow a loan to be tagged to their name for very long

Some people [originally: Someone] who buy [originally: buys] at the “right” time can see the value of their investments soar up to the sky

I could have just left those examples alone. But singular “they” in general writing irritates me to no end, like having a popcorn shell stuck between my teeth when I have no access to floss. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why I feel that way. It could be because I like logic in my language (and everything else, for that matter).

Here’s a thought: you can respect singular “they” as an individual’s personal pronoun AND avoid it in your own writing as much as possible. “Every student must bring their own laptop” is all right in all but the most formal writing. But “All students must bring their own laptops” is equally as right.

Let this be your permission slip: You can use the singular “they”, or not, depending on how much it feels like stuck popcorn shells. It’s not that hard.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Social justice tropes I've seen in the wild

Social justice is, of course, a good thing. What some folks do to promote it, though, is not.

Here is a list of social justice tropes that I have personally seen in the wild (i.e., the Internet). How many do you recognize?

#AllLivesMatter Is Racist™ (I don't know about you, but I'd never thought I'd live to see the day when saying all lives matter was considered racist.)

Blacks Can Do No Wrong™

Blacks Can Never, Ever, EVER Be Racist™

I Can Say Anything I Want To You, And If You Don’t Sit Down, Shut Up, And Listen, You’re A Bigoted Shitlord™

If You’re A White Man, You’re Always The Problem™

Islam Is Too A Race™

Jews Don’t Count™

Lesbians Are Magic™

Men, Express Your Emotions. But If I Don’t Like Them, I’ll Bathe In Your Male Tears™

Muslims Are Awesome™

Only My People Can Drag My People. But My People Can Drag Your People Any Time They Want™

Our Beliefs, Preferences, And Desires Are Created By Cultural And Media Conditioning. Unless You’re A White Guy. Then You’re Just An Asshole™

Proper English Grammar Is Racist And Elitist™

Queer Is Better Than Straight™

Stay In Your Lane / Silence Is Violence / Which Is The Truth???™

The Rape Definition Scope Creep™

Twitter’s Block Button Is My Best Friend – Until Someone Does It To Me™

When Women Behave Badly, The Patriarchy Is To Blame™

Whites Are Always Racist™

Who Cares If It Happened To You, Too???™

Will Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Black People???™

You Have The Right To Choose Who You Date. But If You Choose Not To Date Blacks/Asians/Trans/Asexuals, You’re A Total Shitlord And Should Burn In A Garbage Fire™

Your Opinion Is Wrong, And You Are A Bad Person For Having It™

Your Sexual Fantasies Are Wrong, And You Are A Bad Person For Having Them™

* * *

C'mon, guys. The Golden Rule applies in social justice just as it applies everywhere else. And the characteristics that we were born with do not make us objectively better (or worse) than others.