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Should answers contain neopronouns where the generic or plural form would be more appropriate?

I am talking about a slightly older answer, as I wanted to let the issue cool down a bit first. In this answer, the poster used the uncommon pronoun "sie", not for themself but a not further specified person:

A now wishes to paint the pile red, but cannot because of B's bricks, so sie asks C to make some red bricks with which to replace them.

The comments seem to be deleted by now, but the question was about rather using "him" or "they" because "sie" is too uncommon. Instead of allowing more common pronouns, the poster linked the pronoun to its Wiktionary page, making the word one of the two links in the (otherwise not bad) answer and thus drawing more attention to the pronoun that it should have. Then they announced that they would revert any edit that removes the neopronoun and replaces it with a form that the reader would not have to look up first.

I don't want to start an edit war there, but I think while someone may prefer their own pronouns, the pronoun for some not further specified person should be neutral or plural to avoid confusion and drawing attention from the actual answer to the question why an uncommon pronoun was used.

I don't care too much about this specific answer. Still, I wonder if there should be guidelines, especially when someone announced that they would revert any edit that improves readability because they insist on having this specific wording in the answer.

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  • 17
    Aggressive for me is editing someone's post to change some word that I don't like. Edits should really improve the content. I believe in this case one can simply leave a comment suggesting the change. Posts are "collective", but I think that author intention should prevail if it's not against any rule. Ps: probably this question is a dup, but I'll leave it for more seasoned "big meta" users.
    – Bacco
    Mar 11 at 18:27
  • 11
    Are you proposing that people reword posts because they don't like the author's word choice? Because I would have a serious problem with someone dumbing down my writing to make it easier (in their opinion) to read by removing uncommon words that I chose to precisely convey my meaning or chopping up my lovingly constructed, perfectly grammatical sentences because they are too long. +1 though, because I think this is a valuable conversation to have.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 11 at 18:32
  • 8
    The problem is that you are assuming such edit as an improvement.
    – Bacco
    Mar 11 at 18:37
  • 25
    @ColleenV The thing that annoys me is that the linked pronoun draws attention to something irrelevant to the answer. But for the text, I would say that inserting a neopronoun deliberately where a generic one would be sufficient is not adding value to the answer and replacing it with a more common one makes it easier to read. In particular, as a non-native speaker, I would much prefer not to need to follow links to understand pronouns. (Fun fact: my native language is german and "sie" is the german female pronoun)
    – allo
    Mar 11 at 18:38
  • 7
    The word was obviously chosen intentionally by the author. Why do you think changing it would be viewed as an improvement? It's their answer and it should communicate their intention. Questions are different, because they need to be clear to generate good answers. Unclear answers just get downvoted, so there's not much reason to change an author's intention unless it's offensive. "Your way of expressing yourself annoys me" is not an appropriate reason to edit out an author's style unless it is far more disruptive than a neopronoun and link.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 11 at 18:38
  • 15
    @ColleenV I think it is chosen intentionally. But the intent behind it is nothing that adds to the answer. Ask yourself: Does using "sie" instead of "they" improve the example? If not, why shouldn't the more understandable pronoun be used?
    – allo
    Mar 11 at 18:41
  • 7
    So what? It's not your post. Downvote it if you think it is unnecessarily political. Write a better answer. Editing it to be your perspective is not appropriate. We aren't collaborating on a single article like Wikipedia. SE is set up to allow us to write with our own voices so long as we keep things civil.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 11 at 18:42
  • 4
    You insist that "they" is more understandable. Also you state that "sie" has another meaning in your language. It seems to me a personal problem, not with the answer. You are bothered, you can't apply it to the whole world. I think it's reasonable you say "Can't you change the word "sie", it has another meaning in my language and draw focus to the wrong place". And leave to the author to do it or not.
    – Bacco
    Mar 11 at 18:44
  • 23
    @Bacco "They" is objectively more understandable. Having to link a wikipedia page to explain "sie" proves the point. As a non-native speaker, I haven't heard this word before, and if not for the wikipedia link, I would've assumed it to be a typo. Mar 11 at 18:45
  • 4
    @HolyBlackCat so if you don't understand, there's already a link ready. Ok, then we really are spending time here. I can read the post and also learn a new word. Can't see a problem, really.
    – Bacco
    Mar 11 at 18:46
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    @Bacco That was just a remark. Let's ignore it in the discussion now. What bothers me as a non-native speaker is that the English meaning is unclear without looking it up just to learn that it is just another neutral pronoun. What bothers me about the use in the post and insisting on keeping it (and linking it) is that it draws attention from the post's content to the pronoun. An answer should be relevant to the question and keep everything else simple. One would try to avoid other overly complicated words if simpler ones can easily replace them.
    – allo
    Mar 11 at 18:49
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    Policing the gender and pronouns of fake or anonymous people is absurd. We are not talking about a wall of inscrutable academic prose, it's just one word. I actually agree in general that folks should keep in mind that for many people here English isn't their first language. But that doesn't mean that you should edit posts to avoid encountering any word you haven't seen before.
    – BSMP
    Mar 11 at 19:15
  • 3
    Related/duplicate: Can a user use neopronouns for any third party?
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Mar 11 at 20:05
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    @HolyBlackCat The question there (maybe?) seems to be about a specific rather than imaginary person and the accepted answer is definitely only about a specific person (i.e. you can't misgender a person you made up - if you made them up, you chose their pronouns yourself and can, therefore, refer to them however you wish). This question seems to be about a made up person in an example situation.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Mar 11 at 23:07
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    Reopened as the title now asks a question, and doesn't mirror either of the two that were suggested as duplicates.
    – Shog9
    Mar 12 at 16:49

7 Answers 7

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Unnecessary use of neopronouns should be avoided, as they make posts harder to understand, especially for non-native speakers, while seemingly not improving them in any way. Having to link a Wikipedia article explaining a pronoun proves the point, and adds unnecessary noise.

The same applies to using any other obscure words.

SE is a collaborative effort to build a knowledge database for future readers, so ultimately (especially on technical sites) preserving author's writing style is not important, if it stands in the way of readability.

I would replace them with they/them. But I don't see this as an important issue, so if the author objects, I would leave them alone. I would also try to improve the post in other ways, in addition to changing the pronouns.


Of course, none of this applies if the use of neopronouns was warranted, e.g. if the person being discussed has requested those pronouns to be used for them; or if it's a non-technical site (like Worldbuilding), and the use of neopronouns adds artistic value to the post.

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    Who gets to decide whose style is most readable? Which style guide are we enforcing? Whose vocabulary decides whether a word is "obscure" (meta.stackexchange.com/q/288132/273494)? Or did you mean "not well known"? Or did you mean "not in common use in the UK"? Or are we using North American or Indian English? We decide whether something is clear and readable by voting on it, not by editing it to match what we think is the appropriate style for a post.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 11 at 21:20
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    @ColleenV I'm not a native speaker, to me "obscure" is a synonym for "not well known". I didn't say I know "the best writing style", I only claim that neopronouns are relatively little-known compared to the traditional ones. To make sure I'm not being ignorant, I've checked Merriam-Webster and Cambridge dictionaries - neither mentions "sie". "We decide whether something is clear ... not by editing it" Well, meta.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/edit says otherwise. Mar 11 at 21:37
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    I'm sorry, the limited characters for comments is making it hard for me to get my point across. You're talking about writing style and how that's important to readability. To edit everything so the style is consistent, we need to agree on a style guide, and I think that is completely counter to how SE works. If someone misspells something or writes a convoluted sentence, then edit for clarity. If someone uses a word and links a definition for it(!!!), that's not a clarity problem, that's a "I don't like how you write" problem and we don't solve that by editing.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 11 at 21:47
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    Editing is not about the author. Editing is about the text. I don't have an opinion about your style. I have an idea of how to improve the answer by replacing little-known words with well-known words. A FAQ is not about creative writing in your own style but about technical writing that should be understood easily by a broad audience without looking up uncommon words. By linking the word to its definition, it looks like the author wanted to teach the audience about the word instead of only answering the question. The definition may be interesting, but it is out of the scope of the question.
    – allo
    Mar 29 at 20:40
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I don't want to start an edit war there

...then don't. There are an infinite number of useful edits, but the time in which you can make them is finite; why waste your time in creating strife for little or no benefit?

As Jeff wrote many years ago,

Do not fight an edit war over a crumb of bread — there’s nothing there worth fighting for! It’s easier to just move on and get work done than create pain all out of proportion to the importance of the individual edit.

There will always be something that a given author considers dear and you consider annoying or counterproductive; don't let those ultimately minor points of contention destroy the good that you can otherwise accomplish.

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  • Just for reference: I did not edit the answer myself.
    – allo
    Mar 12 at 15:45
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    I was annoyed by the pronoun and the author insisting on it because I think, especially with the link, it makes the answer direct the reader's attention to the pronoun, which is not relevant to the question or the answer. In my opinion, a single answer should be about a single thing and relevant to the question. Editing that answer (and starting a discussion there) was not worth my time, but I think the discussion here can be useful for future cases.
    – allo
    Mar 12 at 15:50
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    Tbh , in these situations, the op probably has their reasons for it. As long as it's clear and consistent, shouldn't be a big deal. Adding a link ensures fewer people are confused.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Mar 12 at 16:13
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    People do all sorts of annoying stuff when writing, @allo. Some use unnecessary jargon or local idioms. Some use neopronouns. Some use extra 'u's in their words and pretend it's part of their Canadian identity. Most of the time, we just gotta let this stuff go; life is too short. Remember, neopronouns will always be a weird fringe thing and therefore by definition a small problem at worst - because the pronouns that gain wide use we just call "pronouns".
    – Shog9
    Mar 12 at 16:27
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    @Shog9 I think the thing that (slightly) annoys me is that using a non-standard pronoun for an unspecified person implies a reason to use the pronoun and makes me wonder why it was chosen. By choosing a neutral one, I would not be distracted from the answer by wondering why this particular pronoun was used. As it isn't that important, I neither picked the fight, did not try to edit it out, and didn't upvote or downvote the answer.
    – allo
    Mar 12 at 18:03
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    And maybe that's the intent, @allo: it is sometimes useful to choose uncommon language when writing because what is being said is subtle or precise and requires extra care to avoid misreading! It is very difficult to guess as to what an author's intent is in these things; there are ample opportunities to improve clarity elsewhere, so unless a post is badly written in general and requires a great deal of rewriting in order to achieve clarity I won't usually nitpick on intentional decisions like this. Remember: every edit is a judgement call and ultimately the result must be a collaboration!
    – Shog9
    Mar 12 at 18:26
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    @Shog9 In this example I don't see how the post is better with the uncommon pronoun. Here, we need to take care not to pick too much on the example, which we don't want to edit anyway to avoid drama, but to find useful guidelines for future cases, which may be harder to handle. I don't think of edits as judgement in many cases. The problem here is, that the poster probably chose the pronoun intentional (as they seem to defend it against edits) but for something that does not benefit the post itself. So removing it will offend them, keeping it makes the post less readable.
    – allo
    Mar 13 at 15:02
  • @Shog9 Here is an edit, for which I would have been thankful if it was my post. I would not have to learn when to use "it's", but I often learn new cases about capitalization. As non-native speaker it can be surprising which nouns have to be capitalized.
    – allo
    Mar 13 at 15:12
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    Concrete examples are critical for just this reason, @allo: we can all come up with hypotheticals where some edit is (or isn't) advisable, and hypothetical authors who react however suits us! In the example that started this, the post was not of such poor quality as to necessitate substantial edits; perhaps small, careful corrections of the sort that Peter is famous for. There will be other cases where more extensive alterations are necessary at which point worrying about subtlety in initial revisions is a waste. Hard rules over individual words thwart such contextual decisions.
    – Shog9
    Mar 15 at 15:06
  • @Shog9 That's the reason why I did not pick that fight, even when I was annoyed by a post that puts (too) much emphasis on the pronoun. But discussing the topic and not the post will help because the author announced to defend their style if necessary. And in the future, someone may argue to defend their style in the same way for a post that is way harder to read than the example linked in the OP. That poses the question of whether someone should be able to disallow edits that remove their personal style, including but not restricted to their choice of generic pronouns for made-up persons.
    – allo
    Mar 16 at 10:47
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+500

So, one of the things I try to do when I write policy is look at a problem very broadly, without all of its exhaustive context. What is the heart of this problem? How does this problem look to someone new to the platform?

So let's strip the context from this and see if the question holds water. We'll throw context back in, too, but let's start by imagining ourselves as Alexander cutting the Gordian knot. Out of context, this question reads like, "This word is uncommon and so might not be understood."

Well, my first question is: Is "restriction from ignorance" really a guiding principle that honors the spirit of a platform built to share knowledge? Establishing "potential reader ignorance" as the guideline for any style guide or writing rule is inherently self-limiting and contra-indicated by current guidelines.

In the search for high-quality content, we assume that both askers and answers have a responsibility to self-educate. Drawing the line here is starkly arbitrary. The pronoun isn't doing any of the heavy lifting in that post.

If I use the word "azure" or "cyan" in a post and my good colleague Bella_Blue comes and changes each instance to "blue," is that an edit that brings value to the community? You might correctly point out that "blue" is more common than "azure," but does using a more "basic" word retain all the meaning in the original post?

In the example post, simply using "them" could cause confusion, since "them" could refer to any two+ members of the triad (A, B, and C) or the bricks, or any grouping. "Sie" here provides distinct value in allowing us to clearly refer to one person at a time without having to stick a gender to any of the hypothetical characters involved.

If it's confusing because it's a "new word", how do we establish what the cut-off is? Stack Exchange sprang from Stack Overflow, a question and answer site for technologists, who invent new words all the time.

The author chose that language and we already have a principle of respecting authorial intent. Given that, as a hypothetical, "My coworker talked about (his/her/hir/their) dog" are all functionally the same sentence and convey mostly the same information, this is a clear instance of stylistic choice. Editing this doesn't bring "quality" to the post; it just adds to edit queues.

TL;DR:
No. Getting into an edit war over a non-load-bearing word is a waste of your time, and arguing from ignorance is counterproductive in most places, perhaps most especially here.

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    Thank you for weighing in, and doing it more eloquently than I could. I wonder if we will see a question on ELL someday about what "non-load-bearing word" means ;)
    – ColleenV
    Mar 28 at 20:04
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    @ColleenV are you trying to tell me that hyphens aren't magic?
    – Salmon_of_Wisdom StaffMod
    Mar 28 at 20:22
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    Exhibit A: What is the meaning of "prairie-dog" in this sentence? Knowing the meaning of all the connected words might be enough, but sometimes it's not.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 28 at 20:32
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    I am suitably chastised XD
    – Salmon_of_Wisdom StaffMod
    Mar 28 at 20:41
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    Where have you been all this time? Was pleasure to read this answer. Mar 29 at 6:44
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    Is restriction from ignorance a guiding principle [...] for sharing knowledge? As all teachers will tell you (I am a teacher): yes, it is, you need to make your explanation clear, focused, simple, using concepts and language that your students/readers understand. Does using a basic word retain all the meaning? Usually, yes. Sie provides distinct value [...] clearly refer to one person If, in other posts, the referent is clear, does that mean we can edit it (e.g., replace by them)?
    – Marijn
    Mar 29 at 7:28
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    respecting authorial intent: as I understand, intent on SE means "don't change the approach of the answerer, don't add or remove steps or examples". Changing phrasing is definitely allowed and not part of the author intent, especially for non-load-bearing words. adds to edit queues not if you have full edit privileges. Stylistic choice ok, respecting stylistic choice is a good principle. But I'm not sure it weighs against all the counterpoints in favor of editing.
    – Marijn
    Mar 29 at 7:32
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    I agree that more specific words may add value. I also see that "singular they" may be confusing, but "sie" is even more confusing than singular "they" to the average reader. Uncommon specific words need to be worth using. Otherwise, I think they should be replaced by easier-to-understand words. "Azure" is less common than "blue", but many people know the word, and it even exists in similar forms in foreign languages. If you had used "denim" as the color name, it would probably have been a good edit to change it to "grayish blue".
    – allo
    Mar 29 at 20:27
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    I understand that the word is relatively new but I'm not sure what's confusing about it. Can you help me understand?
    – Salmon_of_Wisdom StaffMod
    Mar 31 at 12:44
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I have a headache already from this - almost like I saw this coming years ago...

More to the point, the relevant answer for this indicates what could be done in this context.

U4. If someone puts their pronouns into a question they're asking, should we leave that in or edit it out as noise?

Add a comment noting what they said and suggesting that they could comment on the question/answer next time. Edit it out of the question as you would with "Hi" and "Thanks". Because you've made their request less visible, keep an eye out for mistakes in answers and comments and consider making polite corrections. Note: on some sites stating one’s pronouns may be vital information for the question being asked, so don’t remove them in those cases.

The way I'm interpreting this for an answer:

  • The pronoun needs to matter in the context of an answerer or in the context of the individual answering the question.
    • As in, if the person were referring to themselves, and if they chose to use a neopronoun, then editing that would be inappropriate.
  • If it doesn't, it seems to be acceptable to edit it out in a similar fashion to how you edit out "hi" or "thanks".

In this case, the answerer is establishing a fictitious person in their example, and their gender is inconsequential to the actual context of the answer. Even in the question there is no mention of gender - it's all "Person A", "Person B", "Person C"...the answerer introduced this context unnecessarily.

So normally I would interpret this as, "edit it out and revert to 'they'".

The compounding factor of this is that a diamond moderator has chosen to put themselves on this hill. That...exposes innocent curators in situations like this. This creates a chilling effect - something that really should be edited out can't be edited out for fear of reciprocity.

So...what do you do in this case? Maybe flag it for moderator/CM attention at this point? Probably the best thing going since there's not going to be a cleaner way for you yourself to resolve it.

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    I think making it about neopronouns instead of making it about respecting the author's intent causes way more headaches than it needs to. Respect the author's intent unless it violates the CoC. It's a moderator's call whether someone is being controversial just to disrupt the site. Since a moderator posted this on the site they were elected on, if the community finds it disruptive, it needs to be discussed on meta on that site. The neopronoun case is unique though, because the controversy is about normalizing their usage, so I don't know. It's tricky.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 11 at 21:36
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    @ColleenV: I feel like the intent was hijacked originally. Had the author used "they" we probably wouldn't be having this conversation. But because they didn't, and because there really is a localization readability issue that should be acknowledged, and because there is already a convention on how to resolve this, I really don't think that yet more Meta discussions on this are warranted. There's something to be said about the author's intent here, but I do not feel convinced that this was done in good faith.
    – Makoto
    Mar 11 at 22:25
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    @ColleenV: In this light though, it highlights the very scenario I was concerned about when this was first being rolled out. If someone decides to make this kind of modification to their post, then it becomes instantly toxic, and we get into rules lawyering over a relatively small portion of the answer, which is probably a good answer but is overshadowed by this whole thing.
    – Makoto
    Mar 11 at 22:26
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    @ColleenV: In the context above, "toxic" is more meant to represent "hazardous" in that you would come to harm should you choose to engage in fixing this on your own. Anyone could make an edit like this and if the context of the answer just doesn't call for it, you get into this ugly situation where suddenly now, instead of resolving issues with the answer or talking about the answer, we're talking about the author and their perspective when the answer doesn't concern the author or their identity at all.
    – Makoto
    Mar 11 at 22:27
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    @ColleenV: So that's my chief frustration with this whole thing. There's a convention for it and it should be followed, so someone should see to it that the post gets flagged - if nothing else, so that a CM could clarify the point. Further to this, I'm not going to say that we should remove all neopronouns or go on a crusade against them - far from it. I'm simply stating that unless the context of the answer requires it, removing them should not be so onerous to do.
    – Makoto
    Mar 11 at 22:28
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    The situation here isn't what section U4 is talking about. It's talking about a situation where someone has included their own pronouns as a way of introducing themselves like: "Hi, my name is [name] and I use he/him pronouns. I'm trying to...". Hence the comparison to "hi" or "thanks". It's not banning the use of pronouns altogether. Furthermore, editing out "sie" and replacing it with "they" isn't removing pronouns anyway, you're just swapping one for another. Nothing about U4 implies people can't use neopronouns.
    – BSMP
    Mar 12 at 3:57
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    In a comment you said If someone decides to make this kind of modification to their post, then it becomes instantly toxic, NO, it doesn't. Please stop the drama. Your answer/comments could be used to fan the flames against users who regularly use neopronons. Why would you want this to potentially happen? Mar 13 at 9:28
  • 1
    I don't object to the answer but the accusation that somehow SE will instantly be dealing with a flood of posts with obscure pronouns is not supported. Mar 13 at 9:31
  • @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні: You should have read my follow-up comment to address that. Your reaction to the word "toxic" is what I had anticipated someone who casually glanced at the comment section would make, and that's very much not my intent.
    – Makoto
    Mar 13 at 15:08
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    I did and I don't see how clarifying toxic to stand for hazardous makes the previous statement better. The term "toxic" is used on SE, by users and staff alike, to suggest an environment which is harmful and hurtful towards others. The word you're were probably looking for was "backfire" which could happen when a well-meaning edit leads to a so-called edit war. Mar 13 at 16:13
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    @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні: As my intention was to convey a situation in which there was more harm than good that could come from directly wading into an edit war with a diamond moderator - that is to suggest, that the environment presented was one that was harmful and/or hurtful for an every day curator looking to do their best on the site and not wanting to cause any cultural trouble by making a post more readable but also being mindful of the moderator's position and their (at the time) forceful declaration - then it seems like my choice of words was sufficient to cover this.
    – Makoto
    Mar 13 at 17:38
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Making up a person, it should be as generic as possible. There is no reason for "A" in said answer to have any gender. As a matter of fact, with my layman's understanding of law, it is not even required for it to be a natural person (aka human). It could be a legal entity like a corporation.

In other languages, I agree we could have this discussion. My native language, for example, does not have language constructs that allow a pronoun that presents an entity we don't know the gender of. We have to pick a pronoun and if you have to pick one, one could argue that you could pick any. I am not sure which side of the argument I would be on there. But this is English. English has a concept to use pronouns for unknown entities of unknown or even nonexistent genders! It's called singular they.

So there is a normal, respected way to use pronouns for a completely fictional (maybe not even human) entity. It does not discriminate. It does not push any agenda, neither conservative nor progressive. It just is. It's understandable, and it can be looked up.

So there is no reason to use a neo-pronoun here and there is no reason to link to a neo-pronoun here.

Any other link would have been removed as spam already, and without this dancing around on eggshells.

  • If the author had said "A who owns a BMW" with a link to BMW, it would have been removed.

  • If the author had said "A who supports #blm" with a link to a black lives matter initiative, it would have been removed.

  • If the author had said "A who lives in Spain" with a link to Spanish tourist attractions, it would have been removed.

  • If the author had said "Republican A" with a link to a Trump page, it would have been removed.

Why? Because it has nothing to do with the actual content of the post (Copyright law) and is just link spam. Even if the poster does not benefit directly, it is just inserting links in Stack Exchange posts for ranking. It's still spam.

Remove it.

If needed by a moderator. LGBTQ+ issues are not a shield to hide otherwise unacceptable behaviour behind. Being progressive is not a free ticket to ignore the rules.

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    Isn't grammatical gender unrelated? Mar 12 at 14:33
  • I would argue it is. But I can understand if people feel discriminated by having a wrong pronoun attached to them because my language does not have the option of chosen a gender neutral pronoun. Since English has this option, there is no reason not to use it.
    – nvoigt
    Mar 12 at 14:36
8

TLDR; No, Stack Exchange should not have a policy, unwritten or otherwise, that encourages people to edit neopronouns out of posts. While I would prefer that individually chosen neopronouns not become the standard way to express non-binary gender, I don't think Stack Exchange should take the position that neopronouns should not be normalized. The company should not encourage editors to override an author's intent simply because the editor judged the author's choice of one particular word over another as "unnecessary". We have other less adversarial mechanisms for dealing with unclear or gratuitously controversial answers.


Yes, we should all strive to write clear, easily understood answers. However, authors should not feel constrained by a theoretical reader's lack of vocabulary. We are not writing for a publication where we should feel pressured to mute our own [voice](https://www.wheaton.edu/academics/services/writing-center/writing-resources/style-diction-tone-and-voice/) or follow some style guide full of arbitrary guidelines someone decided makes posts simple enough for some readers to understand. We're writing for adults who can look up words they don't understand. We aren't writing marketing copy or documentation; we're writing (in theory) erudite, well-supported answers that someone will take time to read and understand in hope of getting their question answered.

If I make a mistake, I appreciate editors correcting it, even when someone "corrects" something that isn't wrong, because it lets me know that particular construction or phrasing might be confusing. I do not appreciate editors substituting their perspective for mine when it's my name at the bottom of the post. If I link a definition of a word, I obviously did not write that word by accident. Write your own answer if you don't like the way I wrote mine.

Rewriting an answer so that folks don't have to encounter words or expressions they are unfamiliar with, or to protect readers from a point of view that is controversial (but not in violation of the Code of Conduct) is not a good idea. We are not collaborating on a single wiki post where the end result is a post attributed to every contributor. If an answer has someone's name attached to it, their intention matters and we should carefully consider whether we are respecting their work and their perspective when we make changes to it.

I am not a proponent of neopronouns as a solution for gender expression, however, I think it's wrong to interfere with someone using neopronouns in their writing regardless of whether I deem that usage "necessary". What words shall we deem worthy of being censored if they are "unnecessary"? How much of an author's expression should we strip out of their work to accommodate imaginary people of extremely limited vocabulary with the inability to click on a link and understand a definition?

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    Nice, but I'm soo tempted to replace theoretical with hypothetical. I won't in respect of your voice and the fact it's quite clear what you're saying - and this isn't a science site. ;) Mar 11 at 21:05
  • 1
    @ARogueAnt. Depending on your interpretation of reality, maybe that reader is theoretical... Mar 11 at 21:09
  • 9
    The part I don't agree on is that an answer should be an expression of the authors personal style. It will of course be one, but when someone adds clarity with an edit that removes a part of the author's style I think it is still an improvement, because the answer should primarilly be an easy to understand FAQ answer and not a personal expression of the author. When I use an overly complicated word (or as non-native speaker a word that is not the native idiom in that context) and someone edits it so my sentence reads more fluent afterward I am thankful.
    – allo
    Mar 12 at 15:39
-2

I read through the post and I've a few opinions on things in general.

  • As a writer, clarity is important. If the poster uses the same neopronouns consistently throughout, it might help, not hinder clarity

  • It’s also contextual. If someone uses sie as a way to differentiate one hypothetical subject, I think it makes sense to leave it in place. If the post is 'obviously' written by someone for whom English isn't a first language, and it seems to be accidental - fixing it makes sense.

    Instead of allowing more common pronouns, the poster linked the pronoun to its Wiktionary page

I'm not sure of the overall tone of the comments, but this seems a sensible way, taking into account the first two points of helping folks unfamiliar with that pronoun.

Then they announced that they would revert any edit that removes the neopronoun and replaces it with a form that the reader would not have to look up first.

We don't have the context of why that was said. Was someone loudly demanding the pronoun be removed? Was this in the middle of the last time there was a big fuss over this?

Still, I wonder if there should be guidelines, especially when someone announced that they would revert any edit that improves readability because they insist on having this specific wording in the answer.

Fundamentally - I think it’s essential to preserve the author's intent in a post. Once again, I'm certain we're missing a lot of context in the 2 years or so since the post was posted. I don't remember half the stuff I've posted in the time. The "why" behind that is important, and if author's intent was to use sie and hir, that ought to be respected. If it’s unclear who a specific instance of a pronoun refers to, feel free to ask.

6
  • 3
    In my opinion, you should avoid words that need explanation in technical texts. If you have to link Wiktionary so people don't think the pronoun is a typo, but another pronoun would have sufficed, you should have chosen the other pronoun. The less you have to explain for someone to understand your text, the better the text is.
    – allo
    Mar 13 at 15:07
  • I think that your perspective is pretty accurate for an original poster to an original question - if they had a hypothetical that involved fictitious characters as the anchor of the discussion, then this approach makes a ton of sense. However, the defense of preserving OP's intent is much further weakened when the intent is injected unnecessarily or absent the natural flow of the conversation.
    – Makoto
    Mar 13 at 15:26
  • 1
    (also too it looks like that mod edited their post so this is probably a moot point by now)
    – Makoto
    Mar 13 at 15:27
  • 2
    @Makoto I really like how the poster improved the answer. Using names instead of A, B, C makes it so much more readable.
    – allo
    Mar 13 at 17:32
  • I edited the question to match the style in the answer, emphasizing A, B and C on their first use, so answers still mentioning "person A, B, C" are still understandable.
    – allo
    Mar 13 at 17:46
  • Actually - I had a suggested edit in for that. It appears to have been rejected, in favor of substancial edits that you have seen. I do think the general points still stand though.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Mar 13 at 21:35

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