The American Psychological Association’s (APA) seventh edition includes a significant change that supports inclusivity and intention. The singular “they” is now an accepted pronoun. We use it in daily conversation and writing, but it wasn’t acceptable under the previous style guide edition. When to use the singular “they” is very specific and highlights the fundamental concept of bias-free writing. An important, but not always obvious, consideration is the idea that gender may be “irrelevant to the context”. In other instances, a person’s gender* is unknown or a person prefers “they” to “he” or “she”, for example.
What does this mean for you, the instructor? It may mean nothing; maybe you’ve accepted “they” in your students’ writing as a matter of practice. It may change your academic writing. Or for some, it may require some adjustment. Chelsea Lee’s short post, Welcome, Singular “They”, provides the purpose, reason, and usage of the singular “they” to get you started. For more on the singular "they", read What's Your Pronoun: Gender and Grading Papers.
*We shouldn't ignore that the word "gender" carries many meanings for many people.
Lee, C. 2019, October 31. Welcome, singular “they”. Retrieved from https://apastyle.apa.org/blog/singular-they