It’s not “preferred”

It’s becoming increasingly common for people to share their pronouns as a standard practice on everything from job applications to email signatures to social media bios. With LGBTQ+ Pride Month underway, we’re using this week’s newsletter to address how talking about pronouns sometimes comes with an adjective that we could do without.

You’ve probably seen or heard it: “preferred pronoun,” as in, “What are your preferred pronouns?” or, “Please list your preferred pronouns.” While we appreciate the intention behind this phrase, adding “preferred” does more harm than good.

First, it does little to clarify the question. “What are your pronouns?” is just as easily understood. Second, just as it’s standard to say “sexual orientation” instead of “sexual preference,” we should avoid casting someone’s identity as a mere preference.

A screenshot of Stylebot on Google Chrome that reads: Do not make assumptions about the appropriate pronouns used to refer to a person. Find out through research or by asking your sources. Do not use the term "preferred pronoun," and do not default to explaining a person's pronouns. For example, use of "they/them" to refer to one person is widespread enough that it doesn't require explanation: "Tommy said they are excited for the movie to come out." "Themself" is the reflexive pronoun: "They decided they need to think for themself."

So next time, just say or write “pronouns.” Everyone will understand what you mean, and you’ll avoid an unintended implication.

Before you go: Last week we told you about Stylebot’s brand new Chrome extension and our discount for early adopters. You all snapped up that offer so quickly that we’ve decided to extend the discount.

For one more week only, you can sign up for Stylebot here and use CHROME20PCT at checkout to receive 20% off your Stylebot subscription forever. The offer is good through Friday, June 9.

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