Z-Nouns: A Modest Proposal


A Modest Proposal


I would like to apologize to the many women writers, editors, agents, and publishers out there in the literary field who might feel slighted by my exclusive use of masculine pronouns to represent them in my book, The Novel Pitch, and elsewhere. The reason I have done so to date is simple: this was the standard convention in English grammar for the first few decades of my life, and I had yet to come up with a better one.

Over the past twenty years or so I have seen any number of possible alternatives in print—everything from using he or she, he/she or s/he to alternating the gender of the all-inclusive pronoun from masculine to feminine every other sentence/paragraph/chapter to simply switching exclusively to all feminine pronouns, never mind the common misuse of the plural pronoun their to indicate singular possession by a person of unknown gender.

Unfortunately, none of these “solutions” works for me. And so, as a writer who wishes to shun klutzy prose while still remaining both grammatically and politically correct, I have felt compelled to come up with a new set of all-inclusive pronouns. Having changed my initial proposal for zirsh to represent the possessive pronoun to the less awkward zir, I now present my revised proposal:

zee for the nominative (he/she)

zerm for the objective (him/her)

zir for the possessive (his/her)

zermself for the reflexive (himself/herself)

If you consider this to be a totally silly or even repugnant idea, I understand. No hard feelings. But if this strikes you as a reasonable solution to the current chaos in the literary world when it comes to nebulous pronouns, then please join me in this bloodless revolution.


I believe that every writer should have the license to use whatever words zee thinks will best express zir thoughts, opinions, and stories and that zee should never feel ashamed of zermself for using the words zee thinks will best achieve that goal. I hope you agree.



© 2016 Ann Henry, all rights reserved.