Here’s a good rule of thumb: Be specific. Use he, his, and him when talking about men and boys, and she, her, and hers when talking about women and girls. But avoid using masculine or feminime pronouns generically, as in “Every doctor must complete his residency” or “Every doctor must complete her residency.”
Some writers avoid those pronouns by using he or she, his or her: “Every doctor must complete his or her residency” (awkward). Others solve the problem by using the nonspecific their, as in “Every doctor must complete their residency” – a grammatically controversial usage that could provoke criticism. Such phrasing is not usually necessary.
Instead, use one of these strategies for eliminating gender-specific pronouns:
- Use the imperative. The command form a verb lets you use the second person (you and your) rather than the third person (he and his or she and her).
- Make nouns and pronouns plural.
- Repeat the noun, especially if it helps clarify meaning.
- Eliminate the pronoun.
- Substitute a or the for the pronoun.
- Use the passive voice when the actor is unimportant.
- Rewrite the sentence.
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