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From: "Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget" <gitgitgadget@gmail.com>
To: git@vger.kernel.org
Cc: gitster@pobox.com, sandals@crustytoothpaste.net,
	stolee@gmail.com, jrnieder@gmail.com, emilyshaffer@google.com,
	Derrick Stolee <derrickstolee@github.com>,
	Derrick Stolee <dstolee@microsoft.com>
Subject: [PATCH 4/4] CodingGuidelines: recommend singular they
Date: Mon, 07 Jun 2021 16:57:48 +0000	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <d2c079264955b3bd6c3a5ef77a9c3684206f8475.1623085069.git.gitgitgadget@gmail.com> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <pull.975.git.1623085069.gitgitgadget@gmail.com>

From: Derrick Stolee <dstolee@microsoft.com>

Technical writing seeks to convey information with minimal friction. One
way that a reader can experience friction is if they encounter a
description of "a user" that is later simplified using a gendered
pronoun. If the reader does not consider that pronoun to apply to them,
then they can experience cognitive dissonance that removes focus from
the information.

If we use singular "they/them" pronouns instead of "he/him" or "she/her"
pronouns, then we can avoid this congitive load on the reader.

Using singular "they" is also incredibly efficient. Choosing a gendered
pronoun is usually arbitrary between "he" or "she". Using constructs
such as "he or she", "s/he", or "(s)he" are more complicated than
singular "they".

When choosing a gendered pronoun, that pronoun no longer applies to
nearly half of possible readers. Even if we alternated between "he/him"
and "she/her" perfectly evenly, we would still expect male and female
readers to experience an incorrect pronoun half the time. However, some
readers will not prescribe to either of these binary genders. Those
readers hence suffer an incorrect pronoun the entire time. Singular
"they" applies to every reader.

Perhaps due to similar reasons, official style guides have changed their
stance on singuler "they" in recent years. For example, the APA style
guide changed their official recommendation in 2019 [1]. The MLA
handbook also references helpful ways to use singular "they" [2]. While
not fully endorsing it, the Chicago Manual of Style has removed its
blanket ban on singular "they" [3] (the previous recommendation was to
only use "it" as a singular non-gendered pronoun).

[1] https://apastyle.apa.org/blog/singular-they
[2] https://style.mla.org/using-singular-they/
[3] https://libraries.indiana.edu/chicago-manual-style-singular-pronoun-they

While not all styleguides are updating their recommendations, we can
make a choice as a project to adopt the concept because of the
efficiencies above, as well as the benefits of increased inclusion.

To futher justify singular "they" as an acceptable grammatical concept,
I include the careful research of brian m. carlson who collected their
thoughts on this matter [2] (lightly edited):

  Singular "they" has been used by native English speakers as part of
  the language for over half a millennium and is widely used and
  understood. This usage is specified in Merriam Webster[3]:

    The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of
    indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in
    speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts.

  Wiktionary notes[4] (references omitted):

    Usage of they as a singular pronoun began in the 1300s and has been
    common ever since, despite attempts by some grammarians, beginning
    in 1795, to condemn it as a violation of traditional (Latinate)
    agreement rules. Some other grammarians have countered that criticism
    since at least 1896. Fowler's Modern English Usage (third edition)
    notes that it "is being left unaltered by copy editors" and is "not
    widely felt to lie in a prohibited zone." Some authors compare use of
    singular they to widespread use of singular you instead of thou.

  Linguists fit roughly into two camps: prescriptive and descriptive.
  The former specify rules for people to use, and the latter document
  language as it is actually used without forming a judgment.

  Some prescriptivists think it is acceptable, and some do not. But
  descriptivists will rightly note that it is and has been commonly
  used in English across countries, cultures, and contexts for an
  extended period of time and is therefore generally accepted by most
  English speakers as a normal part of the language.  Since we are
  writing text for an English language audience who are mostly not
  linguists, we should probably consider using the language that most
  people will use in this context.

[2] https://lore.kernel.org/git/YKrk4dEjEm6+48ji@camp.crustytoothpaste.net/
[3] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/they
[4] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/they

If we refer to a specific person, then using a gendered pronoun is
appropriate. Examples within the Git codebase include:

* References to real people (e.g. Linus Torvalds, "the Git maintainer").
  Do not misgender real people. If there is any doubt to the gender of a
  person, then use singular "they".

* References to fictional people with clear genders (e.g. Alice and
  Bob).

* Sample text used in test cases (e.g t3702, t6432).

* The official text of the GPL license contains uses of "he or she", but
  modifying the license this way is not within the scope of the Git
  project.

Other cases within the Git project were cleaned up by the previous
changes.

Signed-off-by: Derrick Stolee <dstolee@microsoft.com>
---
 Documentation/CodingGuidelines | 5 +++++
 1 file changed, 5 insertions(+)

diff --git a/Documentation/CodingGuidelines b/Documentation/CodingGuidelines
index e3af089ecf26..78cd399f7cf5 100644
--- a/Documentation/CodingGuidelines
+++ b/Documentation/CodingGuidelines
@@ -648,3 +648,8 @@ Writing Documentation:
  inline substituted text+ instead of `monospaced literal text`, and with
  the former, the part that should not get substituted must be
  quoted/escaped.
+
+ When referring to an anonymous user, use singular "they/them" pronouns
+ as opposed to choosing between "he/him" and "she/her". Do not use more
+ complicated constructs such as "he or she" or "s/he". This recommendation
+ also applies to code comments and commit messages.
-- 
gitgitgadget

  parent reply	other threads:[~2021-06-07 16:59 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 124+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2021-06-07 16:57 [PATCH 0/4] Use singular "they" when appropriate Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-07 16:57 ` [PATCH 1/4] Documentation: use singular they " Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-07 17:09   ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-07 17:32     ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-07 17:42       ` Andrei Rybak
2021-06-07 18:21       ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-10  7:44     ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-10 14:35       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-07 21:36   ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 18:47     ` Phillip Susi
2021-06-09 20:26       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-11 15:40         ` Phillip Susi
2021-06-11 17:03           ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-10 18:30       ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-11  0:16         ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-11 16:00         ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-12 14:02         ` Phillip Susi
2021-06-08  1:18   ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-08  8:51     ` Kerry, Richard
2021-06-08 23:21       ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-09 13:13         ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-10  3:11         ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-08 17:33   ` Emily Shaffer
2021-06-08 18:03     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 13:44       ` Kerry, Richard
2021-06-09 17:44         ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-25 14:30           ` Kerry, Richard
2021-06-09  4:48     ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-10  8:18     ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-10 14:42       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-14 22:10       ` Robert Karszniewicz
2021-06-07 16:57 ` [PATCH 2/4] *: use singular they in comments Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-07 17:12   ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-07 17:20     ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-10  8:20     ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-07 19:02   ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-07 21:44     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-08 17:36   ` Emily Shaffer
2021-06-07 16:57 ` [PATCH 3/4] *: fix typos Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-08 17:37   ` Emily Shaffer
2021-06-10  8:36   ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-10 19:53     ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-11  9:55       ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-07 16:57 ` Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget [this message]
2021-06-07 18:31   ` [PATCH 4/4] CodingGuidelines: recommend singular they Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-08  1:47     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-07 18:56   ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-07 19:05     ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-08  0:05       ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-10 21:34       ` brian m. carlson
2021-06-10  8:39     ` Johannes Schindelin
2021-06-07 20:00   ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 18:29     ` Phillip Susi
2021-06-09 20:18       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-07 20:20   ` Robert Karszniewicz
2021-06-07 22:18     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-08  7:10   ` Jeff King
2021-06-08  8:11     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 13:23       ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-09 15:20         ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-10 22:06     ` brian m. carlson
2021-06-11 16:11       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-08 17:39   ` Emily Shaffer
2021-06-09  4:44     ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-09 13:27       ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-07 20:10 ` [PATCH 0/4] Use singular "they" when appropriate Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 13:54 ` [PATCH v2 " Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-09 13:54   ` [PATCH v2 1/4] Documentation: use singular they " Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-09 15:33     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 13:54   ` [PATCH v2 2/4] *: use singular they in comments Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-09 15:41     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 13:54   ` [PATCH v2 3/4] *: fix typos Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-09 13:54   ` [PATCH v2 4/4] CodingGuidelines: recommend singular they Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-09 15:50     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-09 15:44   ` [PATCH v2 0/4] Use singular "they" when appropriate Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-09 17:22     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-10  2:03     ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-10  2:28       ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-10  3:30       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-10 22:32     ` brian m. carlson
2021-06-10 22:58       ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-11 16:32         ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-11 17:18         ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-11 20:38           ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-13  7:17           ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-15  6:02             ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-15 13:36               ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-15 17:03                 ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-14  0:47           ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-15 14:11   ` [PATCH v3 0/4] Avoid gendered pronouns Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-15 14:11     ` [PATCH v3 1/4] doc: avoid using the gender of other people Felipe Contreras via GitGitGadget
2021-06-15 14:11     ` [PATCH v3 2/4] comments: avoid using the gender of our users Felipe Contreras via GitGitGadget
2021-06-15 14:11     ` [PATCH v3 3/4] *: fix typos Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-15 14:11     ` [PATCH v3 4/4] CodingGuidelines: recommend singular they Derrick Stolee via GitGitGadget
2021-06-15 16:19       ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-15 17:26         ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-16  2:47         ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-16  5:06           ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-16  9:26             ` Bagas Sanjaya
2021-06-16 17:44             ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-16 19:54             ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-16 23:22               ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-17  0:09               ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-17 13:22                 ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-17 14:53                   ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-17 17:06                     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-17 15:25                   ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-18  0:26                   ` brian m. carlson
2021-06-18 16:12                     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-17 15:23                 ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-17 15:58                 ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-18  0:53               ` brian m. carlson
2021-06-18  7:24                 ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-18 16:40                   ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-19  7:03                 ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-28 22:32                   ` Junio C Hamano
2021-06-29  1:31                     ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-29  1:53                     ` Derrick Stolee
2021-06-29 12:29                       ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2021-06-17 15:12             ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-17 14:46           ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-15 17:08       ` Felipe Contreras
2021-06-12  4:40 ` [PATCH 0/4] Use singular "they" when appropriate Bagas Sanjaya
2021-06-12 14:19   ` Phillip Susi

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