Singular vs. plural

Do not use “they” with a singular pronoun or noun, including a manager, a management, a board of directors, or a company.

Examples: an investment manager does not . . . but he or she may . . . .

IBM has no representatives . . . it does not want them

the board is voting on the question; it will report the vote tomorrow.

Gender-neutral language

See CMS 5.46 and 5.225 for advice on applying gender-neutral language.

What is gender-inclusive language and why is it important?

According to the Linguistic Society of America, “inclusive language acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities.” Many style guides (including the Chicago Manual of Style) as well as academic institutions, such as Princeton University, have formalized policies around gender-inclusive language.

Because not all people fall under one of two categories for an individual’s biological sex or gender, it is best to edit the sentence to use plural pronouns (“they,” “their,” etc.) when possible. When singular pronouns cannot be avoided, alternate between male and female pronouns (in one example, use “he”; in the next example, use “she”).

Can “they” be used as a singular pronoun?

In English, there is no gender-neutral pronoun for a single person, but the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook recently permitted the singular use of “they” as a gender-neutral singular alternative. However, we strongly recommend avoiding this usage because it can create confusion for non-native English speakers.

What are some examples of gender inclusive language?

Gendered noun Gender-neutral noun
man person, individual, people
mankind people, human beings, humans, humanity, humankind
freshman first-year student
manmade machine-made, fabricated, manufactured, artificial
the common man the average person
chairman chair, chairperson, coordinator, head
congressman legislator, congressional representative
manpower workers, workforce, staff, labor, human resources
Gendered pronouns Gender-neutral pronouns
he, him, his/she, her, hers they, them, their

Source:Gender-Inclusive Language,” Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What’s an easy work-around for using “he or she” with “investor”?

To avoid “he or she,” change “investor” to “investors” (plural).

In the era of robo-advice, what about traditional headlines, such as “Man versus Machine”?

Consider rewriting the headline, even though AP Style holds that “man” may be used to connote both men and women. An alternate headline could be “Humans versus Machines.”

See also the Pronouns section.

Pronouns

Organizations take the pronoun “it.”

Example: CFA Institute revised its policy on smoking in 1991.

If a pronoun is referring to an individual and you do not know whether the person is male or female, use the “he or she” forms. You can also vary the forms within a text (i.e., balance the use of “he” and “she” or “his” and “her”).

Example: If an individual places all of his or her assets in one stock, then that portfolio is not diversified. One investor put all his money in stocks; another investor put all her money in bonds.

Consult CMS for guidance on navigating gender bias with pronouns (5.34, 5.222) and special uses of personal pronouns (5.45).

To simplify and keep sentences from being overloaded with pronouns, try to switch to the plural.

Example: Change “if an investor wants his or her portfolio to be . . .” to “if investors want their portfolios to be . . .”