Grammar Lessons for the Legislature
While we here at Boston Daily are down with gender equality, we also value using the English language in the most concise way possible.
So we were dismayed to learn that a battle is raging on Beacon Hill about whether to use gender-neutral language when writing legislation.
“We make up 52 percent of the population in this state, but in the laws we’re invisible,” Rep. Cory Atkins (D-Concord) said. “I filed this to make sure women will no longer be invisible in Massachusetts law.”
We agree that words are powerful things, but that power comes from their meaning, not from their pronouns. And the meaning gets obscured pretty quickly when burdened with endless he/she and his/her constructions.
The linguistic experts over at Bartleby say that is not the best way to handle sexist language.
For Edited English, most editors will recommend shifting the entire sentence into the plural: All persons [Everybody] must bring their own calculators, either avoiding the impersonal pronoun everybody or using it and taking a chance on some conservative objection to the breach in agreement.