Respected reference sources have signaled a modicum of acceptance of the pronoun they in a singular sense. The Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style
relaxed their prescriptions for singular they in recent months, allowing it in limited
This is another step in a trend toward accepting they when referring to a single individual, usually an individual who is hypothetical, someone who is real but of indeterminate sex, or someone who doesn’t personally conform to the binary genders of male and female.
If we accept the singular they, the slippery slope argument suggests that we soon will have to accept the singular pronoun themself. If they is OK as a singular pronoun, it follows that we should at least consider themself as a reflexive pronoun:
The person who wins the prize will find themself set for life.
Themself has been used that way for hundreds of years, though it rarely appears in writing these days. If you are writing or editing in Chicago style, you have that guide’s blessing start bringing it back. AP style is not there yet. Continue reading