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  • Writer's pictureKat Taylor

Why do pronouns matter and how to use them correctly

a white person holds up a board that says "Hello, my pronouns are..." in rainbow lettering

What is a pronoun?

Pronouns are an essential part of language that serve as substitutes for nouns. They help to avoid repetition in sentences and make communication more efficient. Pronouns can refer to people, places, things, or ideas, and they come in various forms such as he, she, they, it, we, and you.

Why do pronouns matter?

Pronouns do matter, but why? Getting pronouns right is crucial for effective communication because using the wrong pronoun can lead to confusion or misinterpretation. It is important to use pronouns that accurately reflect the gender identity of the person being referred to, as misgendering can be hurtful and disrespectful. Using the correct pronouns also shows respect for an individual's identity and helps create an inclusive and welcoming environment.

Common mistakes when using pronouns include using the wrong gender pronoun for someone, assuming someone's pronouns based on their appearance, or using pronouns that do not align with an individual's gender identity.

Getting it right

To use pronouns properly, it is essential to ask for and use the pronouns that someone prefers as this shows respect for their identity and helps to avoid unintentional harm. You may have noticed some people including their preferred pronouns (he/she/they) on their social media profiles or on email signatures, but when in doubt, it is always best to ask someone for their pronouns rather than making assumptions. It is also important to practice using gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them when referring to someone whose pronouns are unknown or when speaking in general terms.

In addition to using the correct pronouns for individuals, it is important to be mindful of using pronouns in a way that is grammatically correct. Pronouns should agree in number and gender with the nouns they replace, and they should be used consistently throughout a sentence or paragraph. Avoiding ambiguous pronoun references and using pronouns that clearly indicate the antecedent they refer to can help improve clarity and understanding in communication.

Overall, pronouns play a crucial role in language and communication, and getting them right is essential for respectful and inclusive interactions. By using pronouns that accurately reflect someone's gender identity, asking for and using preferred pronouns, and being mindful of grammatical rules when using pronouns, we can create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all individuals.


Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

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