Forum:The Singular "They"

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Forums: Index > The World that Never was > The Singular "They"

TheFifteenthMember Yes. You're creepy. I can't say we'll miss you while you're gone, so it'd be best if you did go. We all win that way. TheFifteenthMember 11:44, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
This has caused a lot of edit wars and disagreements before, so I've decided to create a forum and clarify the issue once and for all. The argument is that using "they" as a gender-neutral singular pronoun is incorrect because of course, "they" is a plural pronoun. There's some evidence for that. However, a simple google search shows, me so much more evidence that goes in favour of the singular "they". The issue about warring over grammar is that rules aren't written in stone and language fluctuates all the time. Maybe singular "they" wasn't acceptable in the past (and I say that only for sake of argument, because even Shakespeare used singular "they"), but it's crystal clear that in current times, the trend is with singular "they".

Assuming this forum reaches a consensus in favour of singular "they", remember that wikis are collaborative. Each person has their own personal preferences and opinions but when the majority of the community have decided on something, everyone is obliged to act upon it, even if they were part of the minority that got overruled. For example, I'm accustomed to British English but when I edit here, I try to use American spellings as much as possible (although I still forget sometimes) because that's what the wiki has decided on using.

So thoughts?

Nobody.pngEternal Nothingness XIIINobody.png Is it that I'm not supposed to exist? — 13:52, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
Kingdom Key KHD.png I'm part of that minority who thinks it is wrong to use "they" when referring to singular nouns/subjects. I'm just going to state why: it's been drilled into my head over the course of my many years of schooling. The last time I heard "It's wrong to use 'they' to refer to singular objects, class," was in 2013. Maybe times have changed, and I haven't realized it. Sure, using "they" would probably make things easier sometimes and may sound better on occasion to me, but then I remember what I was taught. When I read "The user summons their Keyblade," on a page, it just drives me nuts and continues to do so until I "correct" it. Of course, this could be partly because of my OCD. I don't know. I'll go with whatever the community goes with. I pray this Wiki makes a good, right decision; keep in mind that if we're going for professionalism here (what I always strive for), then going for something that is grammatically incorrect is not the way to achieve it. However, if times have changed and there is significant proof from official sources to prove that, then by all means, use "they."
Chitalian8 Say... — Only by allowing strangers in can we find new ways to be ourselves.

Life's little crossroads are often as simple as the pull of a trigger. — 14:52, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

20px-Pin_000.png I dunno about everyone else, but that link to Oxford you posted, 15th, is looking pretty convincing to me.

Nobody.pngEternal Nothingness XIIINobody.png Why is it that you always have to glare at me like that? — 16:25, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
Sharpshooter KHD.png Before this discussion continues further, I'd like to throw this link out there: Click me!

It says basically says that because "their" is a pronoun like "he," "she," and "it," it MUST agree in number:

  • CORRECT: If a student parks a car on campus, he or she has to buy a parking sticker.
  • INCORRECT: If a student parks a car on campus, they have to buy a parking sticker.

It also says "everybody, anybody, anyone, each, neither, nobody, someone, a person, etc. are singular and take singular pronouns."

  • CORRECT: Everybody ought to do his or her best.
  • INCORRECT: Everybody ought to do their best.
  • CORRECT: Neither of the girls brought her umbrella.
  • INCORRECT: Neither of the girls brought their umbrella.

However, the website does state:

  • "Many people find the construction 'his or her' wordy, so if it is possible to use a plural noun as your antecedent and thus you can use 'they' as your pronoun, it may be wise to do so. If you do use a singular noun and the context makes the gender clear, then it is permissible to use just 'his' or 'her' rather than 'his or her.'"

While that last bit says using "their" is permissible, please keep the last bit in mind, as well: "If you do use a singular noun and the context makes the gender clear, then it is permissible to use just 'his' or 'her' rather than 'his or her.'"

KrytenKoro - Most bears were content to live their lives, mauling and eating one, maybe two humans at most. "Mass-murder," as the bears always said, "is for the sharks." But not Barry. Barry was different. He knew that one day, he would kill ALL of the humans. This is the inspiring, tear-jerking story of one bear and the dream he dared to dream.
Teachers are very, very often wrong. What anyone's teacher told them is irrelevant to our purposes, and to an extent, what past prescriptivists have tried to claim is also generally irrelevant (like the canard about not having prepositions at the end of a sentence, when that has always been common in the English language).

We can agree to use one of the professional manuals of style, fine, but even the one quoted says that "they" can be appropriate.

If we run into a situation where gender is given by context, fine, but note that that is not the same as a command currently being used by only one character -- ex., the canon gives no indication that Dark Firaga is a male command, even though only male characters have used it so far.

(On a personal and absolutely non-binding note, "his/her" "his and her", etc., sound awful to me because they're so long. We don't want our prose to be meandering or purple, and I think it's worth trying to improve the English language and damn the prescriptivists. On a similar track, I think it should be obvious to everyone why we shouldn't default to a specific gender as many MoS often recommend.)

Nobody.pngEternal Nothingness XIIINobody.png How many times do I have to beat you? — 00:27, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Oathkeeper & Oblivion KHD.png I shall address your points one at a time:
  • It is not a fair comment for you to make that "teachers are very, very often wrong." I am personally offended by that statement because I happen to be related to several teachers who are very smart, competent individuals, to say the least. Teachers would not be teachers if all they did was feed us lies; they only teach us what the so-called "prescriptivists" say is correct. Why would we trust teachers to instruct children if we knew what they said was ultimately incorrect? Teachers are not just dreaming things up and brainwashing us to believe and support what they say.
    • I was not saying what teachers say is a valid reason to apply "they" rules to this Wiki, by any means. I was merely explaining why I support "use 'his or her'" over "they" so strongly.
  • The reason things are "common in the English language" is because people get used to hearing incorrect grammar in everyday life; these commonly-heard errors are often made so frequently that the "prescriptivists" say "Eff this," and amend the rules of the English language to make the errors "okay." That aside, it is also not the place of anyone on this Wiki to say we are above the English language or its confines, flawed and confusing though they may be. The so-called "prescriptivists" have placed their rules in books and on websites, as well as in several other places. If we are not going to abide by the rules of the English language, then what language do you suggest?
  • I have never said that Dark Firaga is a "male command." Just as we cannot assume it is male-exclusive, we cannot assume a female will someday have access to it. What upsets me about this Wiki time and again is we try to do things based on our personal preferences, rather than express what the GAMES state to be so.
  • Just because something sounds "awful" to you, that does not mean we can just ignore grammar or use that opinion as the basis for a policy. I acknowledge you simply threw your opinion out with this comment; while "his or her" can make things wordy or hard to read, it is just proper grammar and nothing more. Again, I ask what right you have to say, "Damn the prescriptivists. Let's improve the English language."
KrytenKoro - "It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It's called living."
My family was previously involved in actually working with teachers. I too have plenty of experience with teachers and teaching, and I feel confident in saying that teachers are imperfect creatures, same as anyone. Just because they say something is the truth doesn't make it so. This is triply true for textbooks, which are...sadly quite often packed with lies, unless you're dealing with something uncontroversial, like algebra. There are teachers who say that you must put two spaces after a period, and anything else is terrible and moronic, and there are teachers who say that you must only put one space -- and sometimes, neither can tell you the reasoning for either tradition, only that it is supposedly ironclad. The point is that talking about "what our teachers taught us" is irrelevant to the actual discussion here -- we need to have reasons for what we do, not dogma.

That said, I'm okay with sticking to an agreed upon MoS, whether it is Chicago or OWL or even British or Australian. I'm not okay with using an MoS to bludgeon other users for making changes if we, as a community, agree those changes add clarity. Prescriptivists weren't elected by anybody, and have no vested authority to tell us how a language should be run; the fact that one of the rules we're discussing has been "broken" since before prescriptivists existed should tell us that perhaps they are less "telling us how English works" and more "telling us how they personally prefer English to work". We should use a prescriptivist-made MoS because it adds efficiency and structure, not because of dogmatic arguments that it is the "one true way". I'm not advocating complete anarchy, but I am saying that the wiki, as a structured community, should be able to decide where to adhere and where to stray from one of the big-name MoS's rules.

I'm not making accusations about what you did or didn't do -- I am exploring a hypothetical and giving my reasoning for my own choices regarding it. I think it would be reasonable to use a gender-specific pronoun if gender is relevant, but not if it is coincidental. I raised Dark Firaga as an example. There is a world of difference between "we've only seen dudes do this" and "only dudes can do this".

Finally, I think I made it quite explicit that I wasn't using my opinion on how "his or her" sounds as a basis for policy, or even suggesting that it should be used. You very much need to stop taking things personally, because you're being irrational with that statement.

As far as "proper grammar" is concerned -- (1) you're begging the question, which is whether it is the only acceptable "proper grammar" (which, even if we only accept the dictates of prescriptivists, isn't demonstrated), and (2) our goal on this wiki is not "proper grammar", it is to communicate information to our reader. If proper grammar enhances that, then great, let's use it. If it becomes an obstacle, then it should no longer be viewed as a sacrament.

Nobody.pngEternal Nothingness XIIINobody.png Trust no one. Feed your anger! Only anger will keep you strong. — 15:39, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Lindworm KHD.png Can we just get back to discussing whether or not we should use the singular "they" or not? I'm not going to let you or others turn this into another one of those forums to be used down the road for "ENX-bashing." You said some very hurtful things in your previous message; forgive me for taking offense to them. I cannot help but take something personally when you are responding to a message I wrote, especially not when a message has content that refers to issues that have only been raised between you and I. Your "holier-than-thou" attitude on the whole grammar/English thing felt out-of-place to me. That is all. I am no longer contributing to this forum.

Pea14733 Enjoy every moment with all ya got — 15:56, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
I think using "they" and "their" is okay. If gender is unclear of course.
Naminé (Live talk sprite) 1 KHCOM.gif
NinjaSheik - All of this might have started with a lie...But I'm really am glad that I could meet you...
TALK - One day, the light-it will be ours, and it will bring us together. Til then, I'll be in your heart...
I saw this forum before I went to bed last night, and was, unfortunately, unable to comment until now, since I just got back from school. As an English major myself, I took the liberty of asking one my English professors about the whole singular "they" thing. His reply was, "Yes, using it is grammatically incorrect." When I asked if using "he or she" wasn't possible, then he said we should just clearly identify them by profession or whatever, like, the "Keyblade wielders" or "wielders". HOWEVER, I've also come to learn this throughout my years studying English: "Teachers are often wrong", as Kryten stated before. The same very teacher, when I first met him (taking him for the second time currently), encourage the class to talk the inconsistencies regarding the confusing (and quite frankly, silly) debates regarding the English language and its structure. He basically made a laughing conclusion (in my opinion, anyway) on it, but his point was this: It doesn't matter what WE think. What is considered "correct" and "incorrect" is decided by the MLA (Modern Language Association) folks. Moreover, he also stated the people above are constantly debating about this thing or that thing, and agreed that changes will eventually come for one thing or another. Nothing is set in stone, and the English language structure is messy. It's not the first time a "controversy" about grammar has come up. There's even a Wikipedia article about Singular "they" and the different views about it.

I've always been taught that using singular "they" WAS grammatically correct until today, and it is often used in modern speech. We hear it being used from our teachers, our peers, and seen it on tweets or whatever. But again, over time, I also learned that teachers are often wrong in some cases. My verdict on the matter is this: I agree with Kryten and Pea. We, as a community, should decide on what to do. I prefer if we keep using "they" or "their", though, but I will consent to whatever the community decides. Let's not make a big deal over something like this.

Also, ENX, I'm pretty sure Kryten's first comment was not meant to be disrespectful in any way.

Nobody.pngEternal Nothingness XIIINobody.png Tell me... Tell me why he picked you! — 00:21, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
Oathkeeper & Oblivion KHD.png I don't expect forgiveness, but I would like to apologize for my unintended overreaction in this forum, specifically in my conversation above with KrytenKoro. Even if this isn't the place for it, I'd like to say that the reason I felt like I was being attacked based on Kryten's words and why I always seem to "take things personally" is because (I can't remember offhand if I ever told the Wiki's presently-active community...) I have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

Unfortunately, this mental disorder makes it almost impossible for me to deal with anxiety or stress of any kind; the disagreements with others I have in forums or on talk pages is an example of something anxiety-provoking for me. In those instances when anxiety traps me, I tend to lose my cool; this is perfectly illustrated above.

I wish to let everyone know that I have received intensive treatment for my OCD this summer, and now, I'm a lot better than I've been in the past. Even so, it'd mean a lot if this Wiki I truly enjoy working on so much with you all would remember that I have this condition in the future. OCD is a mental disorder that never goes away, at least entirely. In my heart, I only want to get along with everyone here and share my love of Kingdom Hearts with you all.

Under the guise of "quitting" the Wiki today (which I never truly mean…), I cooled down a bit and re-evaluated what transpired here. It was then I made the realization (I started to want to work here again as the day progressed) that all I needed was to get over my anxiety, cool down, and come back with a clear head.

For the future, just as I ask you all to remember that I have OCD and that it impacts my reactions and interactions at times, what I need to keep in mind is that when anxiety starts to affect these things, I need to step away from the computer for a while until I'm myself again. I'm climbing out of the self-destructive hole I've been digging and coming back to edit (even though college resumes for me in a few days…).

KrytenKoro - "Hey, I want to settle down. And as soon as I find the right small group of girls, the seven or eight women who are right for me, my wandering days are over, buddy."
Ninja, so you're saying that it would be preferable to say something like "Dark Cyclone allows the user to unfurl tendrils of darkness from the Keyblade"? That personally sounds odd to my ears, but the important thing is that it doesn't have any false implications, so I can absolutely get behind it.

ENX: No worries.

Nobody.pngEternal Nothingness XIIINobody.png Hey, you guys are looking lively. — 06:06, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
Arpeggio KHD.png Thanks, Kryten.

Would phrasing a caption this way solve our problem? See below:

  • "Doubleflight allows users to spawn an ephemeral platform of light in midair which they jump off to reach greater heights."

By making "user" plural, it removes the "singular" issue altogether. Not sure it's appropriate for the captions, but thought I'd make the suggestion.

KrytenKoro - Click
I can't see a problem with that, unless we are given a technique that is defined by being unique to a character (like a Bankai). I feel that if that happened, it would be fair to use the character's name, so...
Naminé (Live talk sprite) 1 KHCOM.gif
NinjaSheik - All of this might have started with a lie...But I'm really am glad that I could meet you...
TALK - One day, the light-it will be ours, and it will bring us together. Til then, I'll be in your heart...
Yes. It's grammatically correct, and it's not out of the ordinary in any way. "Users", "casters", "wielders", etc. They're the words we can use, if the community decides on getting rid of the singular "they", on the wiki. Again, I don't see the problem of using singular "they" or "their". I was taught that was how it was supposed to be, and I've seen other wikis using them, too. I will consent to either decisions.
TheFifteenthMember Yes. You're creepy. I can't say we'll miss you while you're gone, so it'd be best if you did go. We all win that way. TheFifteenthMember 23:27, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
That could work for captions, yes, but the singular "they" is also present in many other areas of the wiki and writing in general. If we agree that it's acceptable, we shouldn't try to avoid using it. I'd imagine that in most cases, the use of singular they would be the best way of phrasing the sentence. In short, don't make a sentence clunky or awkward just to avoid using singular they.

Nobody.pngEternal Nothingness XIIINobody.png Let's see, here... "If the subject fails to respond, use aggression to liberate his true disposition"... Right. Did they ever pick the wrong guy for this one... — 02:31, 28 August 2015 (UTC)
Arpeggio KHD.png I would just say we should permit the use of singular "they" (I can learn to deal with it), but not stress its use or avoidance. If it's present, fine. If not, fine.