American Psychological Association endorses use of singular “They” pronoun

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The American Psychological Association (APA) now endorses the use of “they” as a singular pronoun. They are the latest major organization to provide style guidelines around “they,” meaning that scholars, writers, and scientists will be mandated to use they/them pronouns when needed within their professional and educational fields.

It’s just one step towards the legitimization and standardization of the singular “they” pronoun, validating those who use it as a gender-neutral option within a major medical context.

“This means it is officially good practice in scholarly writing to use the singular ‘they,’” APA’s Content Development Manager Chelsea Lee writes in an APA Style blog post. Style and grammar guidelines for use of the singular “they” now appear in the seventh edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association and the APA Style website.

APA is America’s largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists, with over 118,000 members. Its Publication Manual is followed by a vast amount of professionals, educators, and scholars, who work in the social or behavioral sciences, medical field, and other related fields.

APA Style would have previously accepted the use of the phrase “he or she” to indicate a gender-neutral subject; for example: “A person should enjoy his or her vacation.” But Lee writes that this usage “presumes that a person uses either the pronoun ‘he’ or the pronoun ‘she,’” which might not always be the case since some people use other pronouns such as “they,” “zir,” “ze,” and “xe,” among others. “When readers see a gendered pronoun, they make assumptions about the gender of the person being described,” Lee writes. “APA advocates for the singular ‘they’ because it is inclusive of all people and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender.”

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