Grammar nerds, take note: “they” is a perfectly fine singular pronoun. This is not coming from a leftie who reckons everyone should be able to choose their own bloody pronouns – although said person did write this article.
According to Dictionary.com, one of the definitive sources of meaning and description on the internet, the use of “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun to substitute the masculine singular pronoun “he” and the singular feminine pronoun “she” extends as far back as the 12th century, with literary icons like Shakespeare, Chaucer and Jane Austin using the word for these purposes, long before it became a source of contention for those concerned with correct grammar.
Consider the following phrase from Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, where Elizabeth Bennet addresses Mr Darcy, saying, “To be sure, you knew no actual good of me – but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love.”
Or this one from Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece:
“Now leaden slumber with life’s strength doth fight;
And every one to rest themselves betake,
Save thieves, and cares, and troubled minds, that wake.”
Even the Washington Post’s copy editor, Bill Walsh, concluded that the use of the singular “they” is “the only sensible solution to English’s lack of a gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronoun”.
Perhaps the most apt version of the use of the singular “they” ironically comes from the Authorised Version of the King James Bible, sometimes called the “the most influential version of the most influential book in the world, in what is now its most influential language”.
In the book of Philippians, chapter 2, verse 3, Paul the Apostle instructs his readers to remove the focus from themselves, rather paying attention to the needs of others: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Now, just go ahead and address people as they want to be addressed, already.