The Associated Press has revised its stylebook for journalists to approve the use of “they” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun.
“In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers."
The 170-year-old news outlet specified that it does not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as "xe" or "ze.”
While "they" has been used in casual conversation when a subject's gender is not known, more recently it has been embraced by individuals who do not identify as gender binary. “We offer new advice for two reasons: recognition that the spoken language uses ‘they’ as singular, and we also recognize the need for a pronoun for people who don’t identify as a he or a she,” Stylebook editor Paula Froke said at the annual American Copy Editors Society conference on Friday.
The 2017 Stylebook also updates the entry on gender, including terms like “cisgender,” “intersex” and “transgender.”
“Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations," the entry reads in part, "so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.”
The guide also approves the use of "LGBT" and "LGBTQ" but notes the word 'queer' "can be considered a slur in many contexts, so limit use of the word to quotes and names of organizations, following rules for obscenities, profanities, vulgarities as appropriate."
The print edition of the 2017 AP Stylebook is out in May.