Numerous times I want to refer to the OP, and I found myself writing (s)he or his/her.

What is the right way to do so?

Maybe the answer is that I should continue using the (s)he, but it would be great if someone answered this, because I ask myself every time.

Note: I am not implying anything about genders, but since I am not a native speaker, I am trying to learn how I should write, please.

  • 3
    What's wrong with using "they"? – Jenayah Nov 16 '18 at 10:25
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    Use they and call it a day ... – rene Nov 16 '18 at 10:26
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    But the OP is one person @Jenayah, in the scope of a specific post. For example now, the OP is me. So you would say the post is his, in my case. I don't see how I could refer to the OP with they... – gsamaras Nov 16 '18 at 10:26
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    @gsamaras Singular they. – Sebastian Simon Nov 16 '18 at 10:27
  • @Xufox I was hearing that in general too, thank you for sharing the knowledge! – gsamaras Nov 16 '18 at 10:31
  • @gsamaras How does gender matter at all? – πάντα ῥεῖ Nov 16 '18 at 10:33
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    That's why I asked this question. Because it should not! – gsamaras Nov 16 '18 at 10:34
  • @πάνταῥεῖ of course gender doesn't matter! That's why I asked this question, so that I learn how I should comment, etc., without implying anything that would make another person feel uncomfortable. Xufok, a cross duplicate, but I couldn't find it, guess I wasn't using the right keywords, thanks! – gsamaras Nov 16 '18 at 10:43
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    @gsamaras Singular they is a perfectly valid construction, and is often the easiest, if you don't know the pronouns used by whoever you are speaking with. He/she kind of works, except you are also ignoring the fact that he/she doesn't include anyone non binary. – Ash Nov 16 '18 at 11:06
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    @Ash I hoped that you told that to Professor Oak when he asked whether you are a boy or a girl... :) Thanks for the tip. Despite the downvotes, I feel that I asked a good question, since this whole thing really varies geographically, and it's good for us that are left behind to catch up! – gsamaras Nov 16 '18 at 11:11

I found myself writing (s)he or his/her.

Yes, that's absolutely fine. This construction has been used and continues being used in many (mostly formal) texts. I don't particular like 'singular they' as well (though it's getting better after three years of visiting Stack Exchange).

Alternatively, replace all instances of personal pronouns with 'author', '@username', etc.

  • 1
    I usually just say OP. – forest Nov 17 '18 at 2:41

When you are unsure how to address OP or other users on the site,

Use they/them/their.

Because there are other gendered people besides male and female and pronouns besides he and she. E.g Ze/Hir, sie. These are personal gender pronouns and are gender neutral. Taking too much time to decide what to call OP will cause a waste of time. This time can be used for writing constructive comment, question or answer. This usage of "they" will also prevent problems in miscommunication. Thus avoids users feeling bad if we call them what they are not. This is not only about gender but there are other advantages too.

  1. To show respect (if they are elders or not. Giving respect is always fine. Who doesn't want respect?).
  2. When they are unsure about gender.
  3. When that is someone's preferred pronoun (Some prefer "they" for some reasons. Their personal preference. No harm in calling that).
  • 6
    @DonThermidor_LobsterMobster it might be helpful to expand on why. Also to put the pronouns you'd prefer in your user profile; relatively few people can accurately determine a lobster's gender from a photo. – jonrsharpe Nov 16 '18 at 14:28
  • @rene Ze/hir, Sie, tey etc., – Nog Shine Nov 16 '18 at 17:28
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    I find that "they" often creates confusion rather than removing it, particularly when the question involves other people besides the OP (as happens on Workplace, Parenting, Interpersonal Skills, and other sites that aren't about code). Best to write around the problem -- "the OP", "you" (in an answer), $username, etc. – Monica Cellio Nov 16 '18 at 21:12
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    When used excessively to refer to a strongly-identified individual (as opposed to a conceptual individual where one would be appropriate), they tends to sound really... off. Consider the following sentence describing the TV show "Doctor Who": The Doctor is a Time Lord. They travel through time and space on a vehicle they call the Tardis. Compare that with the original use of singular they, such as in the sentence When one leaves the bathroom, they should always wash hands. Which one sounds more strange? The simple fact is, they is not a very good gender-indefinite singular pronoun. – forest Nov 17 '18 at 2:33
  • @MonicaCellio This "they" works same as he/she but gender neuter. The scenario is when we are referring OP or the other as a third person and not as second person. When we are writing in an answer is using a second pronoun as you. – Nog Shine Nov 17 '18 at 4:17
  • @NogShine the number mismatch is a cognitive speed bump for some of us. That's more significant than the gender neutrality to the affected people. You make a sentence actively unclear by breaking number. Obviously people disagree about this; some people brush off number mismatch because to them it's more important to leave gender unspecified. I'm not trying to start that argument for the millionth time; I only commented to point out that there are better ways to avoid specifying gender than to break number, if clear communication is a goal. – Monica Cellio Nov 18 '18 at 0:44

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