English pronouns are only gender-specific in the third person singular. When a person's gender is binary, use she
) for female gender and he
for male gender.
When someone’s gender is non-binary, use that person’s self-identified pronouns, meaning the pronouns with which the person wants to be referred. In English, some people self-identify with the pronouns they
), while others use sets of pronouns that have been introduced into the language to make it more gender-inclusive, like ze
), or like hen
). In the example below, the writer respects two people’s use of self-identified pronouns.
|My colleague James Rollins will be waiting for you in the main terminal when you clear customs; James is tall with a beard and they will be carrying a sign with your name on it, so it should be easy to recognize them.|
|Dr Sara Shields explains why ze believes hir formula would help hir and other scientists to simplify the procedure in an article published last week in a leading journal.|
When the person’s gender is not known or not relevant, as is usually the case for institutional texts at the UB, use they
|Only one student submitted their assignment on time.|
|Before 15 October, each tutor must speak to the students that they have been assigned.|
Alternatively, rephrase the sentence so that the pronoun is unnecessary or pluralize the subject.
|Only one student submitted the assignment on time.|
|Before 15 October, all tutors must speak to the students that they have been assigned.|
Finally, when there is no way of knowing the person’s gender, also use they
). This may happen when you only know the person’s name and that name is a shortened form (Alex for Alexandra or Alexander, or Pat for Patricia or Patrick), a gender-neutral name (Amal, Cameron, Kazumi, Sasha) or a name with different gender associations in different countries (Andrea, Jean, Joan).
|Dr Pat Sculley explained their personal opinion on the matter.|
|Jean Stuyvesant said they were pleased with their first art installation in the city of Genoa.|