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Here is a paragraph from the Cambridge Dictionary blog:

As men are now being encouraged to talk more and be more open with our feelings, there seems to be a correlation with the rise of the ‘mancom’. That’s a male romantic comedy, as if you didn’t know.

Source: https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2020/11/09/new-words-9-november-2020/


The use of "our" there rings the bell in my head. I think it should have been:

As men are now being encouraged to talk more and be more open with their feelings...

Can the reason behind the use of "our" in the original sentence be that the author is a man? The author might be a woman or a man.

But, at the end of the day, I don't think the use of a pronoun has anything to do with what sex the author is.

Can somebody explain this to me? Thanks.

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  • 1
    Yes, the author is obviously writing from his point of view as a man. Nov 13 '20 at 9:51
  • Is it recommended to do that? Or even if I am a man, I should still write "their" in this case to be neutral? Is there a guideline?
    – vincentlin
    Nov 13 '20 at 10:35
  • I think that statement might lead to ambiguity. To be on the safe side, use "their". Otherwise you could rephrase it to say, As we are now being encouraged to talk more and be more open with our feelings, there seems to be a correlation [...]. If everyone already know that the author is male, their won't remain an ambiguity. Nov 13 '20 at 10:44
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    It's entirely context-dependent. Nov 13 '20 at 11:23
  • 1
    If you are a man, and you want the reader to understand that, you can use the pronoun "our" to convey that to the reader. Whether you are a man or a woman, if you want to write from an objective viewpoint, you can use "their". The most common choice would be "their". Nov 13 '20 at 13:27
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I found the original article that this sentence was excerpted from. Here is the first sentence:

I'll come clean and admit it – I am a man who loves romantic comedies.

So right from the beginning, the author is writing about his personal experiences and his personal feelings, and this perspective continues throughout the article. For example, here is the paragraph preceding your sentence:

In recent years, with the advent of Kindles et al, we are now able to hide the covers of what we are reading. We can stream the films we like without having to be judged at the cinema; the romantics among us have been able to maintain our dirty little secret.

Here, it is obvious from the surrounding context that the pronoun we refers to men who like romantic comedies, which is a category that the author is including himself in.

So finally, when we get to your sentence, the author continues to include himself:

As men are now being encouraged to talk more and be more open with our feelings[...]

And he does this to emphasize that this is a personal story for himself. He is part of the group of men that has felt it necessary to conceal their feelings, so he is using our to signal that he's continuing to talk about this group of men that includes himself.

Now, if you were a journalist who was not writing a personal story, you would indeed use their to seem more objective, even if you happened to be a man yourself.

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  • Thank you. Your explanation has cleared up my confusion. I think my confusion stemed from the fact that I didn't pay close attention to the subtle writing techniques like this one before.
    – vincentlin
    Nov 14 '20 at 14:01

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