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Looking at the NOAD, I read that using they as pronoun to mean a person of either sex is acceptable in those contexts where it follows an indefinite pronoun such as anyone, no one, someone, or a person.

Can I use they with OP?

My thought is that the OP could ask a question about something a group of people is doing / trying to do, and I could use they to refer to the supposed group of people. Would this be an acceptable reason to use they when referring to OP?

  • I don't understand the problem. If the OP is talking about a group of people, they, is the perfect pronoun to use. The group contains people, people is plural, thus the pronoun is "they". If however you wanted to start a sentence with "Every OP.... then you could use "they" and "their" so as to avoid "he or she" and "his or her" clauses. – Mari-Lou A Nov 20 '13 at 22:58
  • For example, is "the OP doesn't understand what they should do" acceptable? The NOAD talks of "indefinite pronouns," which doesn't include OP, as far as I understand. – kiamlaluno Nov 20 '13 at 23:27
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    O.K, that example is perfectly fine. Nothing wrong there :) Sometimes though it's clear from the username (and the avatar) that the person is either a female or a male ahem!. – Mari-Lou A Nov 20 '13 at 23:34
  • It's not always the case. kiamlaluno comes from Esperanto, where the final o doesn't mean "it's male." Without me telling you my gender, are you sure to know it? Does "when the moon" (the translation of kiam la luno) tells you I am female? o.0 – kiamlaluno Nov 20 '13 at 23:38
  • I said sometimes, my name is female and you see my face on the avatar. Fumblefingers, has to be a man for example. There's no doubt in my mind. I could never use "they" with FF. I've always imagined you to be a man, judging by your profile and the type of questions and answers you give. I could be wrong. But I doubt it :P – Mari-Lou A Nov 20 '13 at 23:47
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Yes, you can absolutely do this. There are some people who don't like it, and say you should always use he/she instead of they and his/her instead of theirs. But presuming you choose not to do that (which I don't!) using they and their is perfectly fine. You will always be understood, and most people won't even blink. So an exchange like this in comments on an answer would be just fine:

Your answer is correct, but the OP only asked about A. I don't think you needed to explain B and C. - Person 1, 10 mins ago

@Person1 I understand that, I was just trying to help them. The OP mentioned that they were working on a project related to D, which concerns B and C. I thought their project might be improved if they were aware of how B and C relate to A. - you, just now

All three of those uses (they, them, and their) are perfectly acceptable.

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