Theirs: Navigating the World of Gender-Neutral Pronouns


Gone are the days when the only two pronouns available to writers were “he” and “she.” Today, people increasingly recognize gender diversity and the importance of using gender-neutral language to create an inclusive environment. For writers, this can be quite a challenge. Choosing the right pronoun is essential to establish tone, convey meaning, and demonstrate respect. This article aims to provide guidance on the use of “their” as a gender-neutral pronoun and to explain why it matters.

Navigating the World of Theirs: How to Choose the Right Version for Your Writing

When it comes to using gender-neutral pronouns, there are several options available to writers, including “they,” “them,” “themselves,” and “theirs.” The right choice will depend on various factors, such as the tone and formality of the writing, the genre and audience, and personal preference. Let’s take a look at each type:

  • They/Them/Themselves: This is the most common gender-neutral pronoun. It avoids using gender-specific pronouns and is perfect for informal writing or speech.
  • Theirs: This pronoun functions as both a singular and plural pronoun, making it a simple substitute for “he” or “she” without being gender-specific. It is useful in both formal and informal writing.

When choosing which version to use, consider the tone and formality of the writing. For example, using “they” might be more suitable for a casual blog post, while “theirs” might be more appropriate for a formal report. It is also important to consider the genre and audience. Some genres may have established conventions for the use of gender-neutral pronouns, and some audiences may have strong opinions about what is appropriate. Finally, personal preference should also be a factor.

Here are some examples illustrating the differences between each version:

  • Incorrect: He/she should come to the meeting prepared.
  • Using “they”: They should come to the meeting prepared.
  • Using “theirs”: Theirs is the responsibility to be prepared for the meeting.

The Impact of Theirs: Enhancing Your Writing with Gender-Neutral Pronouns

Using gender-neutral pronouns such as “theirs” offers several advantages:

  • Creating an inclusive environment: By using gender-neutral pronouns, writers can demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity and respect for gender diversity.
  • Avoiding gender bias: Gendered language can often carry unconscious biases that can reinforce stereotypes and perpetuate discrimination. Gender-neutral pronouns aim to overcome this issue and eliminate bias in language.
  • Making language easier and more precise: Gender-neutral pronouns simplify language and make communication more streamlined and precise by avoiding complicated gender constructions.

Real-life examples of the impact of gender-neutral pronouns demonstrate the importance of this approach:

  • Success stories: Leaders in politics, technology, and education around the world have embraced the use of gender-neutral pronouns, setting a precedent for widespread acceptance and use.
  • Challenges and criticisms: Not all responses to gender-neutral pronouns have been positive. Some individuals and organizations have criticized the use of gender-neutral pronouns, arguing that this approach devalues the binary nature of gender.

In response to criticism, there have been several counterarguments made in favor of the use of gender-neutral pronouns:

  • Respect for gender identity: Using gender-neutral pronouns validates individuals who don’t identify as male or female and honors everyone’s right to self-identify.
  • Language evolution: Language evolves to reflect changes in society, and gender-neutral pronouns are one example of an evolving expression of gender identity.
  • Efficient and effective communication: Gender-neutral pronouns contribute to efficient and effective communication by replacing clunky and awkward phrasing with simplified, precise language.

Replacing He/She with Theirs: Tips for Inclusive Writing

Once you’ve decided to use gender-neutral pronouns, it’s important to use them effectively. There are common mistakes and misconceptions that writers should be aware of, as well as tips to use gender-neutral pronouns effectively:

  • Consistency and clarity: Effective use of gender-neutral pronouns requires consistency throughout the text. Mixing gender-specific and gender-neutral pronouns can create confusion and undermine the writer’s intentions.
  • Pronoun agreement: When referring to a singular noun, ensure that the pronoun matches the correct verb conjugation. For example, “their” is a singular pronoun, so it should be used with singular verbs.
  • Avoiding awkwardness: The use of gender-neutral pronouns can sometimes sound grammatically incorrect or awkward within the context of a sentence. However, by reading and revising the text carefully, it is possible to craft sentences that flow naturally.

Here are some examples of inclusive writing using gender-neutral pronouns:

  • Exclusive: When an employee comes to work, he/she should always wear appropriate attire.
  • Inclusive: When employees come to work, they should always wear appropriate attire.
  • Inclusive: Their responsibility to wear appropriate attire is essential for employees.

Their or His/Her? The Pros and Cons of Gendered Vs Gender-Neutral Pronouns

Both gendered and gender-neutral pronouns have their advantages and drawbacks. Gendered pronouns have the benefit of being grammatically correct and have been accepted for centuries. The disadvantage, however, is that they perpetuate gender stereotypes and can be biased. Gender-neutral pronouns, on the other hand, promote inclusivity and respect for gender diversity. Some disadvantages of gender-neutral pronouns include the perception that they are awkward or unnatural to use and the risk of confusing the reader. Ultimately, writers should seek to balance the advantages and drawbacks of each type of pronoun to choose the right approach for their writing.

The Significance of Pronouns: How Using Theirs Can Improve Your Writing and Communication

Pronouns play a significant role in writing and communication. Grammatically correct and effective use of pronouns can prevent ambiguity and misunderstandings. The use of gender-neutral pronouns is particularly relevant today in creating an inclusive society and promoting social justice. Using “their” instead of “he” or “she” not only reflects respect for gender diversity but can also make the language itself easier to understand. Gendered pronouns, on the other hand, can cause confusion and misunderstanding. By being thoughtful in the use of gender-neutral pronouns, writers can powerfully impact how they are received and understood by their readers.

Respecting Diversity: Why Using Theirs in Your Writing Can Make a Difference

Language is a powerful tool for promoting social change and justice. The use of gender-neutral pronouns, including “their,” acknowledges and respects diversity and helps create an inclusive environment. By avoiding gender bias, gender-neutral pronouns reinforce an open and accepting society that values diversity and empowers those who have been historically marginalized. Using gender-neutral pronouns signals a new era of respect and acceptance for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity. Writers can contribute to this movement with small, but important, steps towards change.


The journey towards inclusivity and respect for gender diversity is a long one. However, the use of “their” as a gender-neutral pronoun is a small but essential step towards creating an accepting society. By acknowledging and honoring the identities of all individuals, we can set a precedent for a more equitable society that values differences and promotes social change. As writers and communicators, it’s our responsibility to actively participate in this movement. By using gender-neutral language and pronouns, we demonstrate our commitment to creating a more inclusive world.

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