In this question, a user repeatedly left comments suggesting 'correction' of gender pronouns in cases where the original text wasn't itself incorrect. These comments were later deleted by moderators. No posts were actually edited by the person suggesting the corrections.

Independent of the actual reasons for asking for such changes, the effect of those comments was not to improve the answers but instead an effective derailment, unsurprisingly generating user comments about gendered language.

Should RPG.SE enforce a specific language standard (here: with regard to gender) even when the original text is correct according to the rules of English grammar?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good question/post. I wonder, when it's had a bit of time to congeal, if it might generate another entry for our style guide (to the extent that we have one). \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 18 '17 at 1:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't see the edit history. has it been deleted? \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Jul 18 '17 at 2:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin There are no revisions to this post. What were you looking for? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '17 at 7:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin The corrections being referenced were suggested via comments rather than carried out in edits. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 7:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ And that was part of the problem. Suggesting them in comments focused everything on gendered language, instead of simply an accepted or rejected edit that would not have derailed anything. \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Jul 18 '17 at 8:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ RPG books are written with males in mind. I strongly encourage anybody to read a DSA rulebook (I think it was 4th ed.) that on purpose was written in all female (all characters assumed to be female, all examples written for female chars). Just give it a try to experience how weird it feels if a whole rulebook is written for the other sex. There's nothing wrong about it, it's a great game and the rules are the rules... it just feels weird. We don't want half the planet to feel weird reading RPG.SE, so we should mind our language and not write for a single gender. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Jul 18 '17 at 8:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I cannot see said suggestions that were supposedly moved to the chat. \$\endgroup\$ – tuskiomi Jul 18 '17 at 14:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tuskiomi The comments were deleted. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt, I don't think that's necessarily true--the D&D 5e PHB frequently alternates between male and female gender pronouns. Do you think that feels weird? It might only be one counterexample, but it's a pretty big one. Moreover, I'd argue that the point of using more female or neutral pronouns is to make an average reader "feel weird" and examine why we always default to male... \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Jul 20 '17 at 14:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Icyfire IIRC, the cognitive dissonance phenomenon only happens in texts that use all female pronouns, not ones that alternate. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 20 '17 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie [citation needed] \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Jul 21 '17 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mala Yes, a citation is missing. I only "IIRC" and perhaps someone else can find the original documentation for this phenomenon so many of us are already casually aware of. But if not, no big deal — it would only support a passing comment, and a not very controversial one at that. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 22 '17 at 6:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mala If it helps, I find texts that use all any pronoun cause a double-take myself, and it wouldn't surprise me if this was a common phenomenon. \$\endgroup\$ – wizzwizz4 Jul 22 '17 at 20:06

All pronouns are neutral and should be enforced as such.

I personally think that nobody should be harassed, or be in the red for guessing wrong on how someone wants to be called, and this should extend to RPG.SE. no pronoun should have a negative connotation, whether being misused or otherwise.

Unless otherwise stated, all questions are gender agnostic.

This means that 'he/him', 'they/their', and 'she/her' pronouns are correct, and none of them are incorrect. Good answers simply maintain continuity, and don't switch to refer to the same people. The answer may decide to change pronouns if the answerer wishes, but there is no correct gender. An answer should never be wrong because the gender is 'incorrect', because no gender option is incorrect. If the OP puts in the post that this is a gender-issue, then correct pronouns should be used.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems reasonable and sensible to me. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think anyone has suggested that answers should be deemed “wrong” based on this. (Indeed, we have no mechanism to unilaterally determine/mark wrongness — only collective voting.) Answer correctness is orthogonal to site quality management. Individual authors are responsible for whether their answers are correct; the whole site's community of editors is responsible for whether the site's contents are high-quality. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '17 at 17:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie The answers may not be wrong, but I'm saying that an answer that uses a certain pronoun is not more correct than an answer that uses a different one, and that we should not excuse the value that an answer adds to the site to any degree because of a naming convention, unless it directly correlates to what is being asked. \$\endgroup\$ – tuskiomi Jul 18 '17 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Again, correctness is orthogonal to the issue under discussion, so either I'm not understanding your point, or your not understanding mine. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '17 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I know they're orthogonal, but that doesn't make them not important... I'm not sure why you dismiss it. The reason I'm telling you this is because people will go and change everyone's answers to be 'more correct' or 'of higher quality', and being an agnostic system makes these changes unnecessary. On top of that, it's friendly to new people, in keeping the rules simple, and is simple to existing members, with minimal changes, yet it establishes a solid standard that people more or less already adhere to. \$\endgroup\$ – tuskiomi Jul 18 '17 at 17:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I think tuskiomi is using "wrong" in the moral sense, not in the factual correctness sense. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @tuskiomi as I understand policy surrounding this discussion, the correct way to handle an answer that doesn't apply the stack's "official" pronoun policy is to either edit the answer so that it adhere's to official policy or to comment on the answer and have the answerer edit to adhere to our official policy. I invite doppelgreener or SevenSidedDie to correct me on this point, though. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 18 '17 at 21:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @godskook Well, we don't have such a policy, and I don't think anyone has proposed one. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 19 '17 at 4:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie - It was a simpler time back then eh? :) Link to the now existing Gender Policy FAQ should future readers need it \$\endgroup\$ – RyanfaeScotland Oct 10 '19 at 23:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanfaeScotland dear lord, 800+ down votes. \$\endgroup\$ – tuskiomi Oct 12 '19 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanfaeScotland: I assume anyone looking for it now already knows, but SE Inc. deleted that FAQ and replaced it with an updated one here: What does the Code of Conduct say about pronouns? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mod May 30 '20 at 7:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ "All pronouns are neutral" as a section heading is poorly worded - it reads like you are saying 'only gender neutral pronouns should be used' when what you are actually saying is 'gendered pronouns should not be taken as having a negative connotation' \$\endgroup\$ – Kirt Sep 26 '20 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt hence all pronouns are neutral, not all pronouns should be neutral. \$\endgroup\$ – tuskiomi Sep 27 '20 at 1:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ The confusion comes from using 'neutral' to mean 'not negative'. That is a valid use, but the specific topic of the question may predisposes the reader to make a connection with 'gender neutral', which is an entirely different concept. \$\endgroup\$ – Kirt Sep 27 '20 at 4:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tuskiomi Perhaps "All pronouns are value-neutral" would resolve drive-by misunderstandings without diluting or obscuring your message? \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Sparkles Feb 10 at 19:09

We don't enforce specific expectations around how people gender things and should not really do so. It's up to individuals to determine how they want to handle things: I like singular 'they', others like to use 'he or she' or 'he/she', others use default male. Use whatever works for you and the discussion. Sometimes I catch myself using default male and make a point of using default female instead because why not.

Stay consistent with Be Nice: call people by the appropriate pronouns, respect a trans individual's gender expression, etc. That's business as usual though.

Our goal is to be a valuable RPG Q&A site. Respecting gender diversity is an admirable goal and something we should aim for. I don't much like default male either myself. Having an enforced policy of gender pronoun usage however is going to cause a lot of trouble for our community — that's the kind of thing that requires major buy-in, and it requires people to understand how to navigate this gender space appropriately. It's a significant expenditure of energy which I don't believe will be worthwhile.

Those interested in getting that buy-in would do better by opening up a conversation and requesting a certain practice. That may secure buy-in from individuals interested who can voluntarily write their own posts this way. I believe when SevenSidedDie mentioned opening a meta about it whilst correcting that user, SSD probably meant less "propose a policy", more "point out there's a lot of default-male and make a constructive request that we can handle it another way, and open the floor to discussion on the matter" which would work better to that end. (That's not to say you were attempting to follow SSD's suggestion, just that's what I imagine SSD meant.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a very accurate reading of my intentions at the end there, yes! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 17 '17 at 22:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Phew! Glad I was on the mark there. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 17 '17 at 22:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ One thing to look out for - if the question refers to a certain person (fictional or otherwise) with a certain pronoun, make sure you use the same one if the answer. It's really jarring to read "Can my female character do this?" and have the answer be "Yes, he can.". It's not always that obvious what the gender is, but I've found myself having to reread the entire question to realize that I got the gender of someone involved wrong. Once you start looking for it, you might find you get it wrong quite a bit. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jul 19 '17 at 12:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ It’s worth noting that some major publishers (e.g. Paizo and Wizards of the Coast) regularly use a default female. In Paizo’s case, the gender of the pronoun used in a class description is the gender of the iconic character of that class, even though that class description is describing a generic member of the class and not necessarily the iconic him-or-herself. Compare the female used for the barbarian class (iconic is Amiri) with the male used in the bard class (iconic is Lem). Wizards of the Coast I think also does this, but doesn’t necessarily have an iconic for each class. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 19 '17 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan WotC did this for 3.x I believe, related to their iconics. 4e and 5e not having iconics (that I'm aware of?) appears to mean they've dropped that specific convention. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 20 '17 at 21:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ WotC does this with Magic: the Gathering. Its cards always say "his or her" or "he or she" if they have to use gender pronouns. For a multitude of reasons I am deeply appreciative of them doing that. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 21 '17 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Tangentially, 5e sort of has iconics in that the class illustrations in the PHB, names given for example characters where necessary (especially Bruenor), and sample/pregen characters available for download all line up. It's a thinner and less explicit connection than PF's, though. \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Jul 31 '17 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener: Out of curiosity, was the text of said cards changed, or did Scryfall's search/filter syntax change? Both links in your previous comment currently return 0 results. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mod May 30 '20 at 7:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast The former. In April 2018 the game switched to using singular they, including errata on all cards. (The change is described here if you're curious, under the heading singular "they".) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 30 '20 at 11:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener: Ah okay, I figured as much (especially since the Scryfall page seemed to indicate the search parameter was formatted correctly). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mod May 30 '20 at 11:13


I'm going to give you the super short mxyzplk version of this. No, we are not interested in enforcing gender pronouns. Feel free and promulgate a voluntary best practice people can use here on meta. More inclusive language is welcome.

Even better, lead by example by YOU writing questions and answers that use inclusive language in the way you want it to.

Do not hassle individual questioners and answerers about it via comments unless it's objectively wrong (e.g. used him for a woman).

You can submit edits in specific cases, but if you submit edits on every question/answer ever changing "he" to "he or she" or the like that's going to end very quickly.

We are also not interested in the arguments that infest other Internet sites between the usual two sides. So take it to reddit. Here we are professional and polite and that's it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ we make grammar and spelling edits all the time, it's no different. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 21 '17 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Very fair. +1, a more "throw it to the wind" approach. \$\endgroup\$ – tuskiomi Jul 21 '17 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for concisely saying what I was thinking. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 22 '17 at 1:12

Enforce? No.

Encourage? Absolutely.

Let me quote from a very important document that governs how our site is run — and how it should be run when we forget:

Be welcoming, be patient, and assume good intentions. […]

Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. will not be tolerated. At all. (Those are just a few examples; when in doubt, just don't.)


We're proud to be a large, user-driven space on the internet where name-calling, harassment, and other online nastiness are almost non-existent. It's up to all of us to keep it that way.

In summary, have fun, and be good to each other.

That's from Be Nice, our policy on acceptable behaviour on the site.

Be Nice is usually invoked when someone is doing something wrong, but that's not its only purpose, just the most common time we remind people about it. Be Nice is also, at its core, an aspirational statement about who this site is for.

We don't have that policy of what's okay only to stop people who don't follow it — we have that policy also because it describes who we are and want to be.

And who is that? Everyone. And how does it say we achieve that? By including everyone, and requiring that everyone be included.

How is that relevant here? Because as a community, the RPG community is really, really bad at including women and girls as fully-fledged members.

And as we all know, words are important — things like game rules can turn on a single word. How we use words on the site reflects who we are, and who we welcome, and how well we accomlish that.

Words have power. So that's why people raise things like using default “he” as an issue — because that word choice has power, in a way that practically and directly impacts the core mission of our site.

The wider RPG community has a poor gender record

The roleplaying games community has a bit of a gender problem, in that girls and women are generally not noticed, ignored, minimised, or otherwise not included when we talk about RPG fans. The image of RPG fans is generally male — and that's self-perpetuating.

Our policy on inclusiveness seeks to amend that, but preventing people from being mean isn't enough. People who are traditionally put on the “outside” looking in — like girls and women have been in the RPG community — need to be actively shown that they're welcome in order to overcome the barrier that past (and ongoing, elsewhere) exclusion created. It's not enough to be neutral — as the document says, we have to be welcoming.

We have to create that welcoming atmosphere on our site, and being a site made out of words, we do that with our words.

A side trek: Grammatical correctness is a red herring

Grammatical correctness is a red herring. There are many things which are grammatically correct which do merit changing a post. Being grammatically correct is not the minimum bar for quality here — far from it! Grammatically incorrect posts are generally just fine, and are sometimes fixed up, but we have no rule about requiring it. Conversely, we do have rules that require fixing up a post when it crosses certain lines.

Am I saying that using “he” as a default is crossing a line? No — maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but that's not the point this section is making. The point here is that grammatical correctness is utterly irrelevant in discussions like this about how we govern ourselves as a community. Defending something because it's “grammatically correct” is at best a misunderstanding of what's important to the site.

A further historical side trek: Default Masculine is neither grammatically correct nor incorrect

Believing that default masculine is the correct English grammar is actually a relatively new invention. It was created in the 19th century by England grammarians specifically to attempt to make it incorrect to use singular “they” for entities in a sentence of unknown (grammatical) gender. (Yes, that's right! Singular “they” is older than the default-masculine rule, dating at least to the 1700s, and obviously likely earlier too.) The official reason they did it is what we now recognise as stupid reasons: because “they” has weird number-agreement, grammatically. (This is a stupid reason because singular “you” has the exact same number-agreement dynamic — and a well-documented potential replacement in “thou” — yet they saw no need to “fix” that pronoun.)

So masculine default has no special historical or grammatical weight that makes it more correct, and the Victorian and Georgian grammarians who falsely taught that it did (along with other invented “rules”) were engaging in language revisionism that still causes problems today.

(Side-trek ended.)

What we should do

As I said, we encourage everyone to feel welcome here. And we require that people assume good faith.

So when someone in good faith proposes that a post's writing is reinforcing the perception that we, the RPG.se community, consider men to be the default RPG audience, through transforming gender-unknown subjects into masculine subjects, we should in good faith listen to that critique of the writing.

When possible, we should strive to show that we are actively including people who are generally given a harder row to hoe in our community, and we can do that in such small ways as correcting unnecessary re-gendering. (Or mis-gendering! We not only get unknown genders transformed into ‘he’s, I've seen even female characters in questions transformed into men by the answers.) We can rearrange sentences to not need a pronoun. We can use “he or she” or “she or he” or singular “they”. We can do like some RPG texts do and use default-she for GMs and default-he for players. We can alternate, looking at what's already on the page and choosing the other pronoun to balance.

(And if we do enough of that, the occasional default-he becomes better: just another stylistic choice among many, instead of the most common default used on the site. Doing more to avoid default-he means, paradoxically, that we don't even have to strive for some kind of perfection of non-masculine writing — which would go right past inclusive and comes back around to excluding some people.)

We can, in short, approach this thoughtfully and with consideration. We can show that we're making an effort, and not just dismissing or ignoring.

Should this be enforced?

Like I said at the beginning, no, this shouldn't be enforced. We don't need a mandate, just a shared aspiration.

We want to imagine that girl or woman reading a particular post and feel like they can see themselves in our writing, even if only because the writing doesn't assume they're a boy or man. Some of us are that girl or woman who wants to see us included in the site's writing! (That should go without saying, but sadly it still needs saying.)

It should not be enforced. It should be encouraged.

And I encourage each and every one of us to help in our own small ways, as authors and editors. I encourage everyone to be part of welcoming everyone. We have our small powers granted by the site, and we can use them for the betterment of this site for all our community.

Not just for girls and women

Although “he or she” is what prompted this meta, and so I address that specifically throughout, the principles I talk about are much more general and making girls and women feel welcome is just a specific application thereof. I'm a bit uncomfortable making this an endnote, but I'm not sure how best to convey that earlier or throughout while addressing the actual situation at hand.

I would hope that it's obvious how this applies to all people though. If not — focus on the principles underlying the answer. …Or tell me how to fix it. :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think your statement about the rpg community having a gender problem is correct. At least around here, there's a lot of female privilege when it comes to gaming. \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Jul 18 '17 at 6:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mala I find that unlikely unless you're talking about the Nordic RPG scene (from what I've heard of it), and even then I gather that the privileges are roughly equal rather than tipped in women's favour. Where is your "here"? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '17 at 6:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well then, welcome to the English RPG community. We have a shitty history regarding non-male, non-white members. Sorry. :( \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '17 at 7:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Anyway, maybe back it up or at least mention that this minimisation (etc) is a us-centric phenomen and that the situation is inverted in other parts of the world. I've played in many different groups with many systems and the abundance of female privilege was a constant. \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Jul 18 '17 at 7:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Forgive us @Mala. America, in all it's quirks and foibles, is an anthropologists' dream, whilst an American anthropologist is the world's nightmare. We can be the most politically incorrect about being politically correct (reverse and repeat as necessary) of any people I've heard. While being inclusive of everyone we include everyone in our mania, and think everyone is like us. ("We" meaning myself and anyone else willing to accept the same evaluation.) \$\endgroup\$ – user36832 Jul 18 '17 at 7:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ The minimisation isn't USA-centric — it occurs in Australia and England, and SevenSidedDie is in Canada. In Australia for example the gaming groups I've seen have maybe 10% women 90% men, which is quite a participation difference. (Those venues include at university, a local library, and a friendly local gaming store - though the last one can often be a hostile environment to women.) If some places don't have that issue, that's great! I think it's still accurate to say the issue exists for our hobby though. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 9:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 For the side-side-trek about how singular-"they" is an older accepted gender neutral pronoun than the masculine default and how revisionist grammarians invented the masculine default rather recently. They also invented the "rule" against ending a sentence with a preposition. It's hard to focus on important matters of grammar that legitimately influence legibility and inclusion when we're forced to apologize for rules that were artificially constructed and promulgated by a particular sect of grammarians because they just felt like it. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Jul 18 '17 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie "The wider RPG community has a poor gender record" That's highly judgemental of the "wider RPG community", and in as much as its not accurate, highly abusive of the "wider RPG community". It reflects very poorly on this site, a site that purports to service "the wider RPG community", to be insulting that same community without suitably substantial evidence. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 18 '17 at 21:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is ample documentation for very little search effort. It's one of those "water is wet" things that is surprising to be asked for a citation for, and hard to find a succinct and complete one for because it's so everywhere and basic. So, enlightenment is available for very little search effort, for those more curious than defensive. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 19 '17 at 5:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @godskook If you insist, some “water is wet” history: historian writing & quoting other historians about women in RPGing, wiki about gender record (many outbound links, many internal links with documented incidents supporting each issue), and for a change of pace, a personal recounting of the experience living through that history. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 19 '17 at 15:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, saying that statement is in any way debatable is, frankly, part of the problem. But that's all not super relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 19 '17 at 21:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I suppose it at least improved the answer by prompting me to add a link for the curious. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 19 '17 at 21:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @godskook Asserting that everything ever documented about how women in gaming are treated is merely anecdotal evidence is a way of dismissing it without considering its actual validity. I'm assuming you haven't evaluated its actual validity using actual data coding and analysis techniques, since that takes weeks or months of work. Placing your unscientific opinion as the deciding vote in an effort to dismiss and ignore is patently offensive. Here's a mod warning: You are hereby banned from the subject in these comments per Be Nice. (Comments elsewhere will be evaluated on their merits.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 20 '17 at 21:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tuskiomi This does not advocate recruiting at all, which might be the source of your confusion. It (explicitly) advocates showing existing members of the wider RPG community who already happen to be women that they are obviously welcome here. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 21 '17 at 17:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tuskiomi It seems obvious to me. But for one example, pronoun usage in writing has a positive correlation with visible participation in a community by those who match the pronoun. The relationship evidently isn't a simple one-way causative either, but rather a feedback loop (which makes sense, because female pronouns serve as a flag that “women are active here”, which makes a site more obviously a good place to openly participate, which raises the incidence of female pronouns). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 21 '17 at 18:04

Our policy should be as politically neutral as "Be Nice" allows. This means that pronouns not used to refer to specific people should be allowed as written by the author of the post within the constraints of readable grammar.

When it comes to Pronouns used to refer to specific people, one should follow one of two patterns:

  1. Use a suitably 'correct' pronoun of the person referred to, as defined by that person.

  2. Don't use pronouns.

Regardless of a person's political opinion, the above guidelines can be followed, without offending anyone. There is simply no excuse for using a contentious pronoun because pronouns are optional.

This is largely in agreement with doppelgreener's answer, but that answer does not address a case that should, imho, be addressed directly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not entirely sure what case this is addressing that doppel's didn't. Nor am I entirely clear where politics entered this page (let alone this answer). Perhaps there is an explanatory step or two that could be made more explicit? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '17 at 1:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie are you not familiar with Jordan Peterson? With the media storm surrounding him and his refusal to use trans pronouns, I'd assumed this was suitably public knowledge. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 18 '17 at 13:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not. Even so, answers are most effective when they contain (or at least mention) their context, so that thry can be understood years from now, and so they aren't Rorschach blots that anyone can read their own interpretation into. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '17 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have no idea who that is myself \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 15:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ He's a Psychology professor at the University of Toronto who objected strongly to Bill C17 (which arguably criminalized incorrect pronoun usage) in Canada. Outside of Canada, I suspect he's not particularly well known. \$\endgroup\$ – Byrel Mitchell Jul 18 '17 at 15:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ If this is about trans pronoun usage, I did mention in my own answer that we must "respect a trans individual's gender expression" since that's a fundamental requirement of Be Nice. (A requirement I firmly endorse, since I'm bigender myself.) Godskook, last night (whilst tired) I interpreted point #2 that gendered pronouns were forbidden unless one was already defined. Now that I re-read it, I see it might just be implying "use a suitable one or don't use them" (which means if none is defined I can use either). Could you clarify? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ He doesn't seem to be advocating change to that? Pretty sure this is just an argument for libertarian policy whenever it doesn't conflict with Being Nice to individuals. \$\endgroup\$ – Byrel Mitchell Jul 18 '17 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ youtube.com/watch?v=EXvU8DEbyAw \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 18 '17 at 15:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener that'll provide some context for how Jordan Peterson might find your position politically controversial, as well as anyone who supports him. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 18 '17 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @godskook Will you update your meta answer with the core context of whatever context is missing that knowing about Jordan Peterson would cover? (Knowing about him shouldn't be a prerequisite for understanding a meta post.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 15:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener closer to the latter option, but I really wasn't addressing the undefined case at all, and I don't think the undefined case is particularly contentious between your answer and mine. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 18 '17 at 15:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener it is taking me quite some time to digest the relevant information down into a politically-neutral phrasing, sufficient to give people context, partially because I don't really understand which pieces of context are necessary. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 18 '17 at 15:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @godskook Oh, right, well I mean -- you mention that my answer "does not address a case that should, imho, be addressed directly", I think SevenSidedDie was asking about what case that was specifically. I don't myself need the context surrounding Jordan explained, I thought you were bringing it up because it would answer SSD's inquiry. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given these clarifications (which should make their way into the post somehow), it seems to be mostly focusing on a tangent (albeit a related, relevant one), while failing to speak on the actual situation under discussion (which is about a suggestion someone made to avoid “default he” usage). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '17 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Our site has specifically endorsed (and continues to endorse) ideological positions on a number of topics beyond the minimum required by 'Be Nice'. In the absence of an argument that this is a bad thing, I see no reason to abandon our tradition of taking up positions on things when we think there's a clear right answer with moral impetus. That's not to say this necessarily rises to our bar, but we do politicize quite readily when the situation calls for it, so I think your advice is ill founded. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 20 '17 at 9:05

I care not one bit for political correctness; but am a stickler for correctness. Uses of he or she invokes a feeling of annoyance in any place I see its use but they produce no more annoyance than the use of he or she when used individually when not applying to an actual character.

I think the site should encourage the use of singular they. I can put up with my feelings of annoyance but my annoyance isn't coming from some sense of political correctness but purely one of accuracy. Now encourage is different than enforce. Just saying: We like singular they but he is accepted here, as well as she, he/she or like variants. Should be enough.

Here is an example:

Q: "How many spell slots does a wizard have at level three?"

A: "He or she has X spell slots."

I'm thinking: [insert favourite expletive], it's an abstract question! There is no actual person just say "They have X spell slots."

This is fantasy land, it could be a sentient animated rock wizard, or a self replicating amoeba wizard, both incidentally have no gender while the later could still reproduce. I digress, the point is when asking a RPG rules questions you generally don't need gender and introducing it is just an annoyance in keeping things simple. It's just Occam's razor don't go adding things when you don't need to.

Now another example which has to do with role playing:

Q: I'm playing Henrieta a female barbarian gnome with a penchant for baking, she lives in the great mushroom forest of [some made up land], what should she bake for a group of visiting elvish dignitaries?

A: She should bake mushroom strudel because it's loved by elves and gnomes alike and is a well known delicacy of [some made up land].

Obviously she is appropriate [you could replace she with Your barbarian gnome... but that's a bit obtuse].

In the context of this question by the OP, the actual question as far as I'm concerned is: Should people use he/she in contexts for which pronouns aren't needed as they aren't referencing anyone? And the answer should be yes, lets be tolerant, I just want to be painfully clear that tolerance is good and I hope the above makes it clear that it is still just wrong, but we're gracious and can overlook it [although with the above I hope we are in agreement that such people are still the worse for doing so].

Further issues with use of pronouns when not referring to actual people:

Hopefully the above is enough but personally speaking pronouns have deep meaning, and I think they have deep meaning for more than just myself, consider if a friend spoke the following sentence:

[pronoun] was walking down the street and [pronoun] was [adjective].

I would say the above sentence is evocative, that is it would conjure vivid imagery for most audiences and would be filled with vivid detail from the type of day to the type of person and clothing. Taking into consideration the speaker and the assumed environment. This sentence is about as devoid of content as possible and it still packs a punch. So kindly, if one doesn't need to be introducing some character into my though processes, because there isn't one, don't do it, it annoys me.

Because of how fundamental pronouns are we start building context off them immediately and you can't have a he-or-she, logically it isn't possible, it feels awkward because we are going to create a contextual frame [correct or not] and then have it screwed up in an way that can't even logically exist. To be clear someone is either: He, She, Both, Neither, or one of the previous but currently indeterminate... Unless someone wants to be a jerk and creates a situation where Schrodinger's cat is inseminated and the moment of conception is held in some sort of quantum state... other than that you can't have he-or-she.

Oxymoron's despite their name should be beautiful, who can't appreciate deafening silence, seriously funny, or burning cold. Our brains build a context, in this case the appropriate connotation and meaning from the first word is determined by the second, if it is something that can be adapted but isn't typically we spend a bit more time, but we savour the moment, it deepens meaning. But if we hit something like he-she, my mind pauses and then says: "[expletive] you". It's just a bloody awkward expression, that seemingly only exists to state: I want to derail your reading process.

Not that everyone will agree but I hope to have conveyed why I hate the expression, in such a way that you could see how a lot of people could very reasonably come to the same opinion.

  • \$\begingroup\$ How does English including indefinite pronouns such as "one" square with this assertion that it's incorrect/illogical to use pronouns without concrete referents? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '17 at 7:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ All the examples are of gendered pronouns. I have no issue with "one" its purpose is little different from they. My assertion that the use of gendered pronouns typically creates a context that isn't needed. You are going to expect some meaningful use of the context, perhaps in the form of personification. If that isn't the case, then don't use it. It is quite rare to see gendered pronouns in technical texts demonstrating complicated ideas can be communicated without this being an issue. Yet the start of D&D 1st, 2nd, and 5th have such awkwardness. \$\endgroup\$ – Quaternion Jul 18 '17 at 9:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm referring to the players handbooks. \$\endgroup\$ – Quaternion Jul 18 '17 at 9:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ And the context created by either he or she is annihilated by forcing the same subject to also have the opposite gender simultaneously which is pure nonsense, the use of they or one, is clearly a superior alternative. \$\endgroup\$ – Quaternion Jul 18 '17 at 9:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I suggest focusing less on what annoys you personally, more on what would or wouldn't work well for the community for reasons based on the community itself and our guiding principles. (I also think it's problematic to try to demonstrate the widely-used "he or she" construct shouldn't be used.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 11:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I have somewhat reasonably in my opinion pointed out reasons it should not be used, is there anyone that actually think that it reads well? That it adds something that the use of "they" or "one" would not? Both your and SevenSidedDie's answers predate mine and have addressed the issues you would like addressed. This answer looks to reduce this usage. I just pulled down numerous books mostly technical, and none of them, not even novels have this issue where they are going to use a gendered pronoun for no reason, let alone two back-to-back, why is Q&A a special case then? \$\endgroup\$ – Quaternion Jul 18 '17 at 17:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would be interested if this personally offended someone. If it did I will remove this post. But I don't care if it meta-offends someone, that is your umbrage extends from a sense that it may offend someone else. What I hope is that it would encourage people to investigate their preconceptions on this issue. The other answers are like smooth streams, eloquent but don't demand introspection. Like art, if there is no emotional response (even an I don't like this) there is no impact. The tone in this message was constructed to dig a bit, to encourage this reflection. \$\endgroup\$ – Quaternion Jul 18 '17 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not suggesting it's offended anyone, just that it's going to be much better received if refocused. There's a difference between soapboxing about personal grievances and presenting well reasoned proposals for how to handle a situation, meta is more the place for the latter and currently this is more the former. The suggestions I made would move it toward being the latter. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 18 '17 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ My concern is thus: I can reduce my argument to a series of logical points and provide references; and you might agree, but you are not the target audience, you already prefer singular they. I could change the tone to positive, and I actually had an aspiration (for the briefest of moments) to emulate the lovely style of the Hyperbole and a Half blog, but then that would require a lot of time with MS Paint. So I thought, no I need the position of the unreasonable person. I would like to see a change, I want someone to be annoyed and think about this issue for hours. \$\endgroup\$ – Quaternion Jul 18 '17 at 18:45

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