In Info-Tech’s IT department, there lives a team known as Production. We specialize in editing and managing the research on the website. Recently, we started to have monthly Timely Tidbit sessions to discuss grammar or standards issues that come up, and we arrive at a consensus about how to deal with them. One of the goals that has come out of these sessions is to develop and enhance our Style Guide. Each time we solidify a standard way of phrasing or formatting something, if it merits documenting, we plan to add it to the Guide.
Our first session focused on problems with gender-neutral singular pronoun use. What I mean by that is when someone uses a generic singular noun and then refers to it later in the sentence with a plural pronoun. For example, “when the employee wins their claim, costs can be significant.” The pronoun must agree in number and gender with the noun, and in this sentence, “their” is plural while “the employee” is singular. Eek! But the English language doesn’t have a gender-neutral singular pronoun to use in these cases. So, we had to decide how we wanted to approach this problem.