To refer to a man in the third person, we say \u201che.\u201d To refer to a woman, we say \u201cshe.\u201d But if we don\u2019t want to specify the gender of someone in the third person, English comes up short.\n\n[caption id="attachment_2764" align="aligncenter" width="422"] Our pronouns are increasingly inadequate.[\/caption]\n\nThis is because there is no singular gender neutral pronoun. In academic writing, this can be problematic, so what should you do if you want to avoid using gendered pronouns in a paper?\nWhy Are Gendered Pronouns a Problem?\nIf we\u2019re discussing a specific person whose gender is known, using \u201che\u201d or \u201cshe\u201d isn\u2019t an issue. For example, if writing about Napoleon, it would be reasonable to discuss \u201chis\u201d funny hat.\n\n[caption id="attachment_2763" align="aligncenter" width="325"] It is a very silly hat.(Photo: Thomas Quine\/flickr)[\/caption]\n\nHowever, in academic writing we often refer to people in the abstract using non-gendered terms like \u201csomeone\u201d. It\u2019s difficult to know which pronouns to use with gender-neutral words like this, since both \u201che\u201d\/\u201dhis\u201d and \u201cshe\u201d\/\u201dher\u201d imply a particular gender.\n\nTraditionally, academic writing has used \u201che\u201d and \u201chis\u201d far more in these situations (this linguistic bias is even reflected in the U.S. Constitution, which states than \u201cAll men are created equal\u2026\u201d). As such, it was common to see phrases like:\nWhen someone makes a decision, he weighs up various possibilities.\nBut social changes mean that most people are now uncomfortable with excluding all non-males from academic discourse. So what are the alternatives?\n\u201cHe or She\u201d\nOne option is alternating between \u201che\u201d and \u201cshe\u201d in a document, or you can use \u201che or she\u201d:\nWhen someone makes a decision, he or she weighs up various possibilities.\nHowever, this can make the phrasing of sentences seem awkward. Some style guides, such as APA style, also discourage alternating between \u201che\u201d and \u201cshe.\u201d\nThe Impersonal \u201cOne\u201d or \u201cYou\u201d\nAnother possibility is using the impersonal pronoun \u201cone\u201d in place of gendered pronouns:\nWhen one makes a decision, one weighs up various possibilities.\nThis is fairly common in British English, but in the U.S. it sounds pretty old-fashioned, so the second person \u201cyou\u201d is favored instead:\nWhen you make a decision, you weigh up various possibilities.\nBut this can sound informal or too conversational, as if you\u2019re addressing the reader directly.\nRephrasing the Sentence\nIf none of the above are suitable, it might be a good idea to rephrase the sentence in a way that avoids using a gendered pronoun. For example, we could write:\nWhen making a decision, it is necessary to weigh up various possibilities.\nThis is often the best choice as long as it doesn\u2019t lead to sentences becoming too complicated.\nThe Singular \u201cThey\u201d\nFinally, an increasingly popular option is using the gender-neutral second-person pronoun \u201cthey\u201d to refer to a single person of unknown gender. This avoids gendered language:\nWhen someone makes a decision, they weigh up various possibilities.\nHowever, some consider this informal or ungrammatical, since it involves using a plural verb (\u201cweigh\u201d) in combination with a singular subject (\u201csomeone\u201d).\n\nThe key thing is therefore to check your style guide and pick what works best for you.