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how to avoid the he / she dilemma ?

English translation: plural

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15:42 Feb 19, 2008
English to English translations [PRO]
Marketing - Economics
English term or phrase: how to avoid the he / she dilemma ?
How can I avoid the he / she dilemma in the following sentence?

Maybe someone can suggest a solution removing this he or she altogether ?

Thank you!

===
We cannot create a software system if the customer does not tell us what kind of system he wants
===
Alexander Onishko
Local time: 22:24
English translation:plural
Explanation:
One solution would be to put the sentence in the plural:
We cannot create a software system if customers don't tell us what kind of system they want.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 mins (2008-02-19 15:45:42 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Or, to keep it singular: "if the customer does not tell us what kind of system is required"
Selected response from:

Nesrin
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:24
Grading comment
many thanks to all!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +18plural
Nesrin
4 +7passive
NancyLynn
4 +2as a general rule, stick with 'he'
Mark Berelekhis
4we cannot create a software system...
Adele Oliveri
4 -1one or it
Anna Tomashevskaya


Discussion entries: 3





  

Answers


2 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +18
plural


Explanation:
One solution would be to put the sentence in the plural:
We cannot create a software system if customers don't tell us what kind of system they want.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 mins (2008-02-19 15:45:42 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Or, to keep it singular: "if the customer does not tell us what kind of system is required"

Nesrin
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:24
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Arabic
PRO pts in category: 12
Grading comment
many thanks to all!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  BrigitteHilgner: My words exactly.
0 min
  -> Precisely, thanks :-)

agree  Marie-Hélène Hayles: yes - would that it were always so easy...//too true - see also my comment on NancyLynn's answer!
2 mins
  -> I know, which is why the use of "they" with the singular has become so widespread nowadays. It was so much easier when "he" was always acceptable (in pre-pc times)

agree  Anna Tomashevskaya
4 mins

agree  Mihailolja
7 mins

agree  xxxPoveyTrans: the most common option these days
8 mins

agree  xxxTatiana N.
8 mins

agree  David Russi
10 mins

agree  Angela Dickson: yes, there's a nice solution here!
21 mins

agree  Ken Cox: quite useful and common strategies
27 mins

agree  jccantrell: What I would suggest.
1 hr

agree  Vicky Nash
1 hr

agree  Suzan Hamer
3 hrs

agree  Claire Chapman
3 hrs

agree  Mark Nathan
6 hrs

agree  Will Matter
7 hrs

agree  Ade Indarta
18 hrs

agree  xxxAlfa Trans
2 days23 hrs

agree  V_N: definitely
4 days
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4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
we cannot create a software system...


Explanation:
... unless the customer provides us with accurate system / product specifications.

Adele Oliveri
Italy
Local time: 21:24
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in ItalianItalian
PRO pts in category: 4
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9 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): -1
one or it


Explanation:
"One" or "they" could be used general statments depending on the context

In legal texts for example, "it" is used instead of "he" or "she

Anna Tomashevskaya
Russian Federation
Local time: 22:24
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in BelarusianBelarusian, Native in RussianRussian

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
disagree  Buck: you cannot refer to a person as it, certainly not in a legal text
16 hrs
  -> Well, if British lawyers are not aware of there language rules, certainly cannot:-)
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11 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +2
as a general rule, stick with 'he'


Explanation:
I myself was very surprised to find that most clients simply prefer to stick with 'he,' as that cuts down significantly on issues like this. And I'm talking about professional texts to be used in legal and business documents, psychiatric batteries, etc.

This has been my solution to the problem for a long time, and since then I've only had one customer ask me to find a way of neutralizing the pronoun. So, I suggest simply sticking with 'he.'

Mark Berelekhis
United States
Local time: 15:24
Native speaker of: Native in RussianRussian, Native in EnglishEnglish
Notes to answerer
Asker: This is a marketing text - so I'd better avoid it - but I will keep your advice in mind. Thank you, Mark!


Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Buck: I stick with he unless the customer insists on the dreaded pc he/she
16 hrs
  -> Thank you, Buck.

agree  V_N: Agree w the general rule. I think "they" (which is quite common) fits better as otherwise it creates a specific target group.
4 days
  -> Thank you, V_N. I can agree with that as well.
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5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +7
passive


Explanation:
Nesrin's solution works in this context but be careful not to fall into the gap of using "they" for a single person - I'm seeing this more and more.

In this case you could try some thing like "if the customer doesn't tell us what is required". or even: If we don't know what is required, we can't...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 18 mins (2008-02-19 16:00:28 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Dear Asker,
To turn it around that way, you could say "if he customer does not tell us what we need to do."

NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 15:24
Native speaker of: English
Notes to answerer
Asker: Can I put it this way ? - "We cannot deliver a software system if the customer did not tell us what we shall do"


Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Marie-Hélène Hayles: with your warning - although I think use of "they" for a single person will soon be considered as acceptable even in written English, as you sometimes need to jump through linguistic hoops to avoid it.
3 mins

agree  xxxTatiana N.
5 mins

agree  Angela Dickson: I rather like 'they' for a single person (I think it's a neat solution) but I avoid it anyway, as so many people disapprove of it!
17 mins

agree  Ken Cox: also possible; and esp. in the US, using 'they' to refer to singular persons is very common now. @ Alexander: no you can't put it that way; it's awkward and grammatically incorrect.
26 mins

agree  Vicky Nash
1 hr

agree  Deborah Workman: I do dislike plurals for singulars, so I'm for going passive (as it were!)-- e.g., "what system is required". Occasionally I use "s/he wants", but only if I know it will work for the client and context.
9 hrs

agree  V_N: w/ Ken too
4 days
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