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Dear Moderators and All,

Sth's really confusing me here... If you could help that would mean alot to me. When refering to a certain position, quality, major, job or whatever, do we generally use the word HE (refering to both sexes) or should we be more specific by writing: He/She???

For example:

1a- A successful teacher is one who understands HIS students well.

1b- You should not judge a leader unless you observe well how HE treats his followers.
OR:

2a- A successful teacher is one who understands HIS/HER students well.

2b- You should not judge a leader unless you observe well how HE/SHE treats his followers.

can example 1 refer to both sexes?? or should we write it as in example 2?!

Waiting for your reply,
May
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The anti-sexist faction has opened a can of worms in this area, May. The problem is that English is historically patriarchal (as are most of its Indo-European antecedents); often, therefore, there is no replacement for the traditional 'he' that is not awkward.

Here are some guidelines:

- If the sex of the referent is known, use the appropriate pronoun, 'he' or 'she'.

- If you want to rile the female readers, use the traditional 'he'.

- To please the anti-sexists (most everyone nowadays), use 'he or she' (or 'she or he') or 'he/she' (or 'she/he') in a passage unless it becomes so frequent that it is awkward; in which case, go back and convert the sentences to plural if possible: 'Successful teachers are those who understand THEIR students well'.

- As a matter of fact, try from the beginning to cast your passage in the plural: it's a lot easier.

- If you want to rouse the ire of the male readers, try using the female pronoun instead: 'A successful teacher is one who understands HER students well.

- I myself am enamoured of the coinage 's/he' (pronounced /sh? 'hi:/) for the subject pronoun and 's/his' (pronounced /sh? 'hiz/) for the possessive, but many pooh-pooh these; and I have no ready equivalent for the objective or reflexive forms. 'S/himself'?-- no, I suppose not.

- Good luck in all your endeavors.
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Additionally, a more popular approach is to phrase the sentence without s/he:

1a- A successful teacher is one who understands students well.

1b- You should not judge a leader unless you observe well how that leader treats followers.

All the best,

Note, if you want to rile male readers, use "she". Emotion: wink