What is the gender neutral they and why does it matter?
In English, the most commonly used pronouns are he, she, they, and it. Although English does not have a designated personal pronoun for a gender-neutral or subject of unknown gender, “they” has long been an English speaker’s go-to for many situations. When “they” is used to signal a single person, this usage isn’t always considered “proper” English grammar since “they” is more frequently used as the plural pronoun.
However, as a Writing Center consultant, I am a big advocate for the gender neutral “they.”
For starters, other substitutes can be clunky and awkward in both speech and text. Substitutes such as “he/she” don’t read easily, but also are limiting. Other substitutes, like mixing the use of “she” and “he” throughout the text can cause confusion and require extra thought to balance out the usage. “They,” despite its grammatical origins, works as an easy-to-read substitute.
However, there are other more pressing reasons to use the gender neutral they.
Using “he/she” or arbitrarily assigning a gender to an individual can be limiting and potentially harmful. Not all individuals identify as male or female, and some may even identify as both or neither. Using “he/she” erases nonbinary gender identities, while using “they” is open and inclusive. When in doubt, I always use they as both a default pronoun and to be more inclusive than the traditional “he/she.” (For further information about gender identities, see this interactive booklet). Continue reading
Feeling stressed about finals? Check out these motivational gifs!
Nervous about starting your first exam?
Remember, finals don’t control your life!
Once you’ve come halfway through the week, don’t forget to
It may seem like the week lasts forever, but even the worst days come to an end
And don’t forget to
If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re wrong
- Sticky notes and outlines
When the blinking cursor and blank page mock you, when your paragraphs are a mess, when your thesis seems to have gone on vacation, when your paper is woefully long or frightfully short, what do you do? OUTLINE!
“Nah,” you say. “I hate outlines, because the rules don’t work for me/I don’t like lists/outlines are boring/I don’t need to outline/outlines don’t help me . . .”
Maybe you were taught a specific way to do outlines, and you don’t feel that they help you at all. We’ll let you in on a not-so-secret-secret: outlines have no rules! Just like the free-for-all step of brainstorming, you can outline however you want. Since neither brainstorming nor outlines are presented with the finished product, the way you do them is only restricted by personal taste and use. Outlines are extremely useful and can help you organize all of your thoughts before you spend hours struggling with full sentences and paragraphs. With outlines, you can quickly see how your core ideas flow into one another and how you can make the best argument. Outlines are the ultimate organizational tool for writing anything from creative pieces to research papers and argumentative essays.
So how do you outline? A good way to start is to think about how you learn best. Do you like to do everything digitally? Do you like to write long sentences, or jot down ideas shorthand? Do you prefer to know all the details beforehand, or make it up as you go along? Are you a visual learner, or auditory processor? Outline however works best for you! Use unconventional materials like sticky notes, index cards, or draw pictures and diagrams. Make lists on napkins, or write out detailed ideas on your computer. Whatever floats your boat and sails your goat, do it! Continue reading