How to Use Pronouns With an Inclusive Mindset

How to Use Pronouns With an Inclusive Mindset
Written by Cassie LaJeunesse

Instagram recently introduced an update that allows users to add their personal pronouns to their profiles. This news was met with excitement across the platform, as many users saw it as a step towards inclusivity.

In recent years, public awareness of personal pronouns has become more and more common. Pronouns are an important way to express gender identity, but the broadening of pronoun possibilities has led to some confusion and heated discussions about gender and grammar.

What are personal pronouns?

What are personal pronouns?

Personal pronouns are an expression of an individual’s gender identity, which is their internal, individual experience of gender. Gender identity and gender expression (the external presentation of gender) vary from person to person, and pronouns do too!

Just like gender identity is an individual experience, personal pronouns depend on the individual. If someone identifies as male, he may use masculine pronouns, and the same is true for someone who identifies as female.

Someone who identifies as nonbinary or gender fluid may choose they/them pronouns, another gender-neutral pronoun, or a variety of gendered and non-gendered pronouns. A few commonly used gender-neutral pronouns are sie/hir and zie/zir.

The Center, an LGBT community center in New York City, reminds us that “it is important to keep in mind that a person’s pronouns are not exclusively linked to gender and may not match your perception of that individual.”

You cannot always tell someone’s pronouns by looking at them.

Why pronouns matter

Excitement surrounding Instagram’s update shows just how important it is to share your preferred pronouns, no matter your gender identity. Transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming individuals have been sharing their preferred pronouns for years, so why shouldn’t everyone?

If more cisgender people share their pronouns, it could help normalize discussions about gender and help others feel more comfortable discussing their own pronouns. This is true if you share your pronouns in daily conversation, in your social media profiles, or in your email signature.

Our attitudes and language become more inclusive if we all participate in these conversations about gender identity and expression.

Try this: “Hi, my name is ______, and I use the pronouns (he/him) (they/them) (she/her) (zie/zir).”

Example: “Hi, my name is Cassie, and I use the pronouns she/her.”

Inclusive example of using pronouns

How to use pronouns: 2 inclusive examples

Many people who identify outside the male/female gender binary have chosen to use they/them as their personal pronouns… and many people have argued against the use of singular they because it is “grammatically incorrect.”

But here’s the thing: Grammar and language evolve with usage. If we start using they/them in the singular, then guess what? They’re singular. Most style guides now accept singular they, which has actually been in use much longer than you might think.

Singular they just makes sense, and not only because it is more inclusive. They is the perfect pronoun when you’re unaware of an individual’s gender identity. It’s so much easier and less clunky than “he or she” and “his/her.”

  Example: Someone left their jacket here.

 Example: Anyone who doesn’t love that movie is out of their mind.

So think about adding your own pronouns to your email signature or social media profile, and don’t balk at using the singular they in your writing. Anything we can do to make our language and writing more inclusive is a good call.

They is a singular pronoun, and here's why. Plus, here's how you can make your everyday language more inclusive with pronouns. #writing #contentmarketing #inclusivity Click To Tweet

About the author

Cassie LaJeunesse

Cassie LaJeunesse is doing everything in her power to prove wrong the people who scoffed at her English degree. A former college newspaper editor, she now writes and edits content for a regional magazine. She also finds time to freelance for her alma mater and other publications, writing and editing in a variety of styles and subjects. Now that she has completed her degree, she uses her free time to read as much as possible, sing in a choir, and hang out with her cat, Gilbert.

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