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Gender. Third person pronouns

Interuniversity Style Guide

    The content of these guidelines is taken from the Vives University Network’s Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing Institutional Texts, an interuniversity project in which the UPC participated with the support of the Secretariat for Universities and Research of the Government of Catalonia.


    Personal pronouns

    • English pronouns are not gender-specific, with the exception of he and she (subjects), him and her (objects) and his and hers (possessive). When you are describing groups of people of differing sex or individuals whose gender is unknown, avoid expressions like he/she, him/her, his/hers and himself/herself. Where possible, use a plural pronoun (they, their, etc.).

      When students have no certificate, the University will ask them to take an exam.
      Researchers have to be completely objective in their findings


    Use of he or she

    • You can occasionally use he or she, him or her and his or her as an alternative to pluralising the subject and verb, but overuse can seem pedantic.

      *The average student is worried about his or her marks.
      Students are worried about their marks.

      *The applicant must demonstrate his or her ability to work independently.
      Applicants must demonstrate their ability to work independently.

    • In some instances, the pronoun adds nothing. Simply remove it or use an article.

      The average student is worried about marks.
      The applicant must demonstrate an ability to work independently.


    Indefinite pronouns

    • When you use all ~s, each ~, every ~, everyone/body, anyone/body, someone/body, whoever or a relative clause like those who, you must pair these with they, them and their. All take a singular verb, except all ~s and those who.

      All candidates are requested to include a cover letter and their CV in their applications.
      Every candidate has to include references for work experience they have had over the past two years.

    Use of you

    • In some texts, especially less formal documents such as manuals, guides or instructions, the second person (you) or the imperative (no pronoun) is often more appropriate than the third person. This is especially convenient, as you, your, yourself and yourselves are not gender-specific.

      *The students should first turn on their computers.
      You should first turn on your computer.
      First, turn on your computer.