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The Pronoun Wars

Pronouns and antecedents When I first heard about "the pronoun wars," I assumed the debate was about the old problem of the correct pronoun to use when "everyone" was the antecedent.  This is the related question that I put on the mid-term exam for the course on Applied Grammar I was teaching in 1994.


You have been asked to edit an official government document.  You have to decide what to do about the following sentence:"In the future every university student will be required to pay 51% of the cost of their education."If you decide to change the sentence (or not to change it), you will have to explain your decision to three people:  Mr. Boyle,  who is a strict grammarian; Ms. Doyle, who is a proud feminist, and Mrs. Murphy, who likes to see problems solved in a practical, common-sense fashion.Explain the problem with the sentence, and give your decision and justifications.  

Traditional grammar versus feminism The traditional grammarian would insist that t…