Source: C++ For Dummies, 7th Edition by Stephen R. Davis (2014)


Use of gender is always a tricky subject when writing a how-to book. I don’t want to appear to be telling gentlemen how ignorant they are while giving the ladies a pass by using he and him all the time. In this book, I use the pronouns she and her when referring to the programmer and he and him when referring to the user of the program. So, she writes a program that he can use.

I don't think I can comprehend that sentence well enough. To me, it's not clear at all what exactly he's trying to say there. Exactly is the operative word here. This is what I'm able to get out of the sentence: He doesn't want men to look stupid as he gives the ladies a pass (they're not gong to be included because he's not going to use female-based pronouns) by using only the traditional English masculine pronouns he and him all the time. But how does using only male-based pronouns like he and him all the time in a textbook, and to tell you the truth this is something that has been done for centuries in English literature, make men seem ignorant? That's what I don't understand.

  • 1
    He's explaining why he's using the pronoun "she" instead of "he"... Since English doesn't have a genderless singular pronoun.
    – Catija
    Jan 11, 2016 at 17:32
  • Cookie Guy what happened? Your question titles used to be good and descriptive. :(
    – M.A.R.
    Jan 11, 2016 at 17:47
  • @Catija not sure I believe it.
    – geometrian
    Jan 11, 2016 at 23:18
  • @imallett Referring to people using "it" is specifically cruel and never done.
    – Catija
    Jan 11, 2016 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


A paraphrase

If I use the pronouns he and his all the time in this book when explaining things, it might make it seem that I am saying men are the only ones who need to be instructed, and that women do not, but this is not the case; {therefore I will use the convention I describe in the next sentence}.

For to give someone a pass, see this answer on ELU. It is basically to leave someone out or not include someone.

For the topic of they/their as a gender-neutral singular pronoun, see

Is there a correct gender-neutral, singular pronoun ("his" versus "her" versus "their")?.

  • 1
    Okay. Now everything makes perfect sense. Jan 11, 2016 at 17:45
  • Renaat Declerck did the something similar in one of his books: used She for the Speaker and He for the Hearer whenever those personae were required. Jan 11, 2016 at 20:38

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