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Old 07-12-2018, 10:14 AM
gatitosmommy's Avatar
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Default "Old skool" vs. "New rules"?

As a long-ago English major, I was taught to use the English language correctly. This approach worked well for print publications in the past, and both clients of content companies and individual clients in recent years. During the last few years, though, I've encountered a different approach, and wonder what other members here think about it or do about it.

My viewpoint: unless a publication or client has special needs or preferences, we are supposed to use the above approach. However, this morning I received negative feedback and a 4-star rating instead of 5-star rating. The topic was elderly persons and a health issue that often affects senior citizens. What I was always taught: if you are referring to individuals who are not gender-specific, the word 'he' is used; you do not alternate between 'he' and 'she,' and you do not use the word 'they' unless you are referring to multiple persons. So, in the short article (under 300 words), I used the word 'he'- and the writer claimed the article was 'sexist'! Seriously, WTH?!?

Borrowing a line from Kerouac, it seems too many people prefer 'fads and trends and popular opinion.' Related to this confusion about 'modernism,' I recently saw an article in the online local newspaper. The title said the article was about LUNCH-SHAMING. My first thought was if I'd used dopey slang when I worked for newspapers, I would have been fired on the spot, but the same would be true if I took that approach with clients I write for these days.

Are we supposed to disregard everything we learned about proper writing, and jump on every new trend that comes along?
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Old 07-13-2018, 01:06 PM
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It is now generally considered sexist to use "he" as the generic, yes. Has been for several years now. I've started defaulting to "they," which generally doesn't offend anyone. It's an easy enough fix if people want it changed.
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Old 07-13-2018, 04:02 PM
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Honestly I don't think it's actually "sexist" to simply put "he." That kind of feedback would get a major eye roll from me. But I know some people are extra sensitive about that stuff these days, so I usually write "he or she." It's annoying, sure, but it's also annoying to break grammar rules and write "they." Sorry, just can't do it! Using "he or she" has not been a problem so far in 10 years of writing. Other than that, yeah, I think we're "allowed" to break some rules these days. I was taught to never start a sentence with "and" or "but." But here I am, doing it anyway! I think it's just part of informal writing now. People want a conversational, casual tone, so I try to provide that without breaking too many rules!
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Old 07-15-2018, 08:41 AM
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Writing for the web is different from writing for a print publication. Consider that almost all younger people use the internet for research and information. The older generations are less likely to do the same (though of course people of all ages do go online). Younger people, in general, use more modern language. They don't default to "he." Instead, they tend to use "they/them" as a singular pronoun. I know, it grates on my nerves, too, but I do it because that's what writing for the internet entails. "He or she" is acceptable, but it takes up three words while "they" takes up one. In some cases, brevity is key.

So you have the choice between being a purist and rolling with the current wave. Speech has gotten less formal and writing has followed. Just like someone who graduated with a computer science degree 10 years ago has had to keep up their skills or become irrelevant, a writer has to do the same. Nurses, teachers, doctors, and many other professionals have to update their skills to go along with current practices and new technology. Writers are no different. There are probably some clients who prefer "old school" writing, just like there are some people who prefer an old-fashioned doctor. It's up to you how you want to market yourself and what lines you want to draw for yourself.
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Old 07-16-2018, 01:28 PM
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I alternate between "he" and "she" in articles or blog posts so both genders are represented. But my clients usually prefer second person. I do see "they" often, but the verb is never in agreement and this really annoys me.
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