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Write the Right Word: He/She

Referring to individuals generically seems to give some writers a lot of trouble.

Remember, an individual is one person and must be referred to with a singular pronoun. Thus, “Talk to your child so they know you are concerned about them” is incorrect.

What you should say is: “Talk to your child so he or she knows you are concerned about his or her behavior.”

If you know the individual’s gender, use it. For example: “Contact your insurance agent immediately to let him know your car was in an accident.”

To avoid the sometimes awkward “he or she” phrase, rewrite the sentence. You might say: “Communicating with children is important so they know you are concerned about their behavior.”

Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391


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