More Grammar: The “They” Issue

“Everyone can find something they like on the menu.” Right or wrong? I hope you don’t mind another grammar discussion as you plug away at writing your memoir.

Today’s column by New York Times blogger Philip B. Corbett tackles the continuing dilemma of the gender-neutral singular pronoun. I’m among those who bristle at pairing the singular “anyone,” “everyone” or “no one” with the plural “they” or “their.” Corbett mostly agrees but also discourages resorting to the old-fashion “he” or the cumbersome “he or she.” I’m guessing he wouldn’t much like “s/he,” either. The problem is that English leaves you no good option. Or does it?

I’ve long advocated for just switching up the sentence. English is a rich language, and it’s not that difficult to say the same thing in a different way. This is Corbett’s solution as well. He tends to simply pluralize everything. For example: Should every student design their own curriculum? He changes that to: Should all students design their own curriculums? That’s good with me, except I would use curricula rather than curriculums, but I prefer his second suggestion: Should every student design an individual curriculum?

When we apply this to the first sentence above, we can come up with a few choices: All diners can find something they like on the menu; Anyone find something on the menu to enjoy; Everyone can find a satisfactory choice on the menu; The menu addresses all tastes and diets. Etcetera!