Canadian Department of Justice: use "singular they"

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A page at www.justice.gc.ca recommends that people drafting legislation should "consider using the third-person pronouns 'they', 'their', 'them', 'themselves' or 'theirs' to refer to a singular indefinite noun, to avoid the unnatural language that results from repeating the noun".

The page closes with an excellent set of references and quotations — the sources include the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage and the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Language Log is not cited (nor should it have been), but we may have had some indirect influence, perhaps by providing a theological argument that retains some force even in a secular society like Canada's, or perhaps by offering protection against the intemperate irrationality that these issues sometimes provoke.

The Canadian Department of Justice page provides a set of detailed and sensible guidelines, including these examples:

Not using "their" Using "their"
Subject to this Act, every person who is qualified as an elector is entitled to have the person's name included in the list of electors. Subject to this Act, every person who is qualified as an elector is entitled to have their name included in the list of electors.
…that person has no other residential quarters that the person considers to be the person's residence. …that person has no other residential quarters that they consider to be their residence.
Between the date of issue of the writ and polling day, each returning officer shall update the Register of Electors from the information that the returning officer obtains in the course of duty. Between the date of issue of the writ and polling day, each returning officer shall update the Register of Electors from the information that they obtain in the course of duty.
Each revising agent shall take an oath in the prescribed form before beginning the revising agent's duties. Each revising agent shall take an oath in the prescribed form before beginning their duties.
…the person against whom the objection is made, where that person wishes to present the person's position,… …the person against whom the objection is made, where they wish to present their position,…
A person who knowingly makes a false or misleading statement, orally or in writing, relating to the person's qualification as an elector… A person who knowingly makes a false or misleading statement, orally or in writing, relating to their qualification as an elector…
…whether those tasks are performed by that person or on that person's behalf. …whether those tasks are performed by them or on their behalf.
The exporter of a device shall maintain, at the exporter's principal place of business in Canada, … The exporter of a device shall maintain, at their principal place of business in Canada ,…

The "Date de modification" is given as 2008-04-03. Kudos to the anonymous author!

[Hat tip: Bob Kennedy, co-author of "Nicknames and the Lexicon of Sports", American Speech 81(4):387-422, 2006.]

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