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Newspapers need a better gender-neutral word than “they” | READER COMMENTARY

I was taught that newspaper writing should be clear and to the point, but in the recent Baltimore Sun article about eviction “loopholes” the first sentence threw a curve: “When Indigo Null first set foot in the CopyCat apartment building several years ago, they finally felt a sense of belonging that long evaded them in their rural South Carolina hometown” (“During Maryland rent moratorium, more landlords using legal ‘loophole’ as means to evict,” Dec. 30).

The combination of an unusual name and a preference for non-gender-specific personal pronouns results in a sentence that can’t be correctly parsed without further explanation, which in this case came a couple of paragraphs later. Before getting to that point I thought Indigo Null might be the name of a band rather than a person because “they” and “their” read as plural. I imagine I’m not the only reader who got to that third paragraph, said “Wait, what?” and had to re-read that first sentence.

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I hope we can come up with another option for folks who eschew traditional gender identification. While I have no objection to today’s less rigid gender roles (and why would I?), let’s not ignore the value of clear, unambiguous communication in the realm of journalism.

Walter Levy, Pikesville

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