Hello,
I have a question I'd like to ask.
I was writing a sentence the other day the following way:
When you set up an appointment with a dentist, they usually try to give you procedures you don't need.

In the above sentence, is the use of "they" acceptable, even though the word "dentist" is singular? Should "he or she" be used in place of "they", or is it OK as it is? I never really thought of this before, till I wrote that sentence.
thanks
I was writing a sentence the other day the following way: When you set up an appointment with a ... or is it OK as it is? I never really thought of this before, till I wrote that sentence.

This question inevitably starts long and often quite heated arguments between the two schools of English usage.
To try to sidestep those arguments, let me put my answer this way: if you avoid using plural pronouns with singular antecedents, no one will ever find error with your speech or writing. If you do not follow that advice, at least some people will think you're an ignorant illiterate.

There are numerous ways to manage the avoidance other than the simple "he- or-she/him-or-her method (which is, in any event, not so painful as some would have it). The simplest and commonest is to use the plural form:

When you set up appointments with dentists, they usually try to give you procedures you don't need.
(Incidentally, you don't give procedures, you perform them; and I have never heard of a dentist who performs procedures in the process of setting up an appointment. That is not meant as sarcasm, but as a reminder that it is well to think through what one is actually saying before committing it to ink or to electrons, as may be.)

Garner, in A Dictionary of Modern American Usage , notes at least four other ways in which "he or she" forms can usually be avoided. You might also want to look at http://owlcroft.com/english/they.shtml

Cordially,
Eric Walker, Owlcroft House
http://owlcroft.com/english /
Hello, I have a question I'd like to ask. I was writing a sentence the other day the following way: ... or is it OK as it is? I never really thought of this before, till I wrote that sentence.

When you call the dentist's office, you usually don't talk to the dentist; you talk to a member of the staff. I read your "they" as the dentist's staff.
Bill in Kentucky