Letters: Language of gender pronouns, “illegal immigrants”

“He” still the best generic pronoun

If you respond to a Letter to the Editor – make sure to read it. I appreciate Sebastian Karcher’s response “Gendered Language Really Does Matter” because it gives me the opportunity to clarify my argument.

When I cited Foertsch and Gernsbacher’s paper, I wrote that the use of “she” in an un-stereotypical context “slows reader comprehension by 8 to 12 percent.” I recognize the fact that the use of “he” and the use of “they” are, according to the study, equally readable, and I’m sorry if readers of the letter interpreted my argument as saying differently; obviously my writing was unclear.

Mr. Karcher is correct that I personally prefer to use “he” when the antecedent’s gender is ambiguous. This partiality is not because I believe (from the findings in the study) that “he” is the most readable option.

As Mr. Karcher pointed out in his letter, Foertsch and Gernsbacher found no evidence that either “he” or “they” is more readable than the other. If I must choose between “he” and “they” in formal writing, I will go with “he” because, as I said, the use of “they” as a singular pronoun is still in the informal spoken stage of social acceptance.

I presume that eventually the use of “they” will attain such prominence that it will be generally accepted in formal contexts, at which time I will be delighted to drop “he” for “they.” I happen to err on the side of prescriptivism.

As for everyone else – Mr. Karcher and NU faculty included – they should feel free to make their own decisions – provided they avoid “she.” To quote my previous letter, “there is no reason, deontological or pragmatic, to use ‘she’ as a generic pronoun.” This was and is the point I want to convey, and if it is a mistaken one, I would greatly appreciate a clarification.

-Natalie FriendWeinberg sophomore

“Illegal immigrant” inaccurate and unjust

People always criticize Northwestern students for being apathetic. That’s why I was excited to see so many journalism students rally behind Roxana Saberi and march for human rights.

I only wish The Daily would do the same. With so many journalism students here protesting against this injustice, maybe reconsider using the term “illegal immigrant” when referring to people who have no rights and are being exploited here in America. The correct term is undocumented immigrant. It doesn’t matter what the AP Style Manuel says! Stop calling my friends illegal.

-Chiarra ManzanaresWeinberg freshman

“Undocumented,” not “illegal” more accurate

A couple of clarifications: first, last year the City Council did not pass a “symbolic resolution in favor of making Evanston a safe haven for immigrants.” The exact wording was “that the Evanston City Council reaffirms its practice and commitment to the continued treatment of immigrants and their families on a humane and just basis.”

Second, the term “illegal” with reference to immigrants is a misnomer since the person is not the illegal entity – the term applies to the action committed, not the person. It is for this reason that the more accurate term “undocumented immigrant” is more appropriate. It would be terrific if The Daily Northwestern were to adopt the more appropriate terminology.

-Rachel HeumanEvanston Immigration Advocacy Project