Can I use "they" with "OP"?

4

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?

kiamlaluno

Posted 2013-11-20T21:25:14.820

Reputation: 20 456

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 – 2013-11-20T22:58:47.683

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 – 2013-11-20T23:27:28.587

1O.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 – 2013-11-20T23:34:01.863

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 – 2013-11-20T23:38:57.430

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 – 2013-11-20T23:47:33.187

I think singular they can refer back to the OP even if you know whether they're male or female. But they referring back to Mari-Lou A would be odd. In other words, I believe that whether they is acceptable has more to do with the choice of words than to whether the gender of the referent is known. – snailplane – 2013-11-21T00:25:15.610

Snailboat makes a very valid point; if you're using the term, OP, to address any user then you can follow with they as shown by Wendikidd's examples. I'm not wild about the acronym, OP, myself it sounds very impersonal but it's certainly an improvement on usernames which are a series of numbers. If I were talking about user 246810 and whether their contribution was correct, I would definitely use "they" as the pronoun. – Mari-Lou A – 2013-11-21T05:27:17.813

see also – Tyler James Young – 2013-11-22T15:28:37.237

Answers

6

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.

WendiKidd

Posted 2013-11-20T21:25:14.820

Reputation: 14 749