Office of the University Registrar

Pronouns FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Students, Instructors, Advisers, etc.

What is a pronoun?

Pronouns like “she”, “him”, and “their” provide a grammatical way to refer to people without using their name. Some pronouns are gendered, while others are gender neutral.

Why are pronouns important?

Pronouns are one of the ways we portray our gender identities. When someone asks you to use their pronouns, they are asking you to respect who they are. In doing so, you can help cultivate a safe and inclusive UW community and learning environment, where individuals feel respected and welcomed for who they are.

How are pronouns used today?

Many UW departments, programs, and activities already offer opportunities for individuals to express and learn what pronouns their members and participants go by. Some departments have also added pronouns to their IT systems, but they aren’t integrated in a holistic or coordinated way.

How will pronoun use be improved?

The central pronoun option will allow students and other members of the UW community to express their everyday pronouns on Identity.UW, much like their everyday preferred names. Departments will be able to integrate these pronouns into their IT systems, more consistently, and with less overall duplication of effort. These improvements will ease pronoun adoption, promote respectful use, and reduce accidental misuse that results from assuming pronouns based on appearance or name.

Where will pronouns be integrated?

The student experience in the classroom is the highest priority use of pronouns for the Office of the University Registrar, so we are working with UW-IT to integrate pronouns into MyUW class rosters for use by faculty and instructors. Other uses will follow after that, such as MyUW and systems used by advisers (like MyPlan, EARS, and Compass).

What pronouns can I choose?

You can specify any pronouns as long as your pronouns align with the purpose of self-identification of everyday pronouns intended to help others use pronouns respectfully. This approach offers cisgender, transgender, gender non-binary, and other gender nonconforming individuals equal opportunities to express pronouns that align with their gender identities.

Is “they” a singular gender-neutral pronoun?

Yes, they/them pronouns have been used as singular gender-neutral pronouns for centuries, and Merriam-Webster recently updated the definition of the word “they” in its dictionary, citing use of they to refer to a “single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.”

Does the singular “they” take a singular or plural verb?

Use of “they/them” pronouns takes a plural verb, even when used to refer to one person.

For example, “Sam is a great choice to lead the discussion. They understand this material as well as anyone.”

Are instructors required to use my pronouns?

Instructors are strongly encouraged to use the pronouns expressed by their students, TAs, and others in and out of the classroom. However, they are not required to do so. Instructors always have the option of using a person’s name, rather than a pronoun. It is the safest option when an instructor is unsure what pronouns to use.

How can instructors promote respectful use of pronouns?

When instructors, TAs, and others in the classroom introduce themselves with their pronouns it creates a safe environment for others to share their pronouns too.

For example, “Hello, my name is Alex and I use they/them pronouns.”

This practice also demonstrates an awareness that pronouns need to be learned, rather than assumed based on name or appearance.

What if someone’s pronouns are unspecified?

The unspecified option is available for people who choose not to share what pronouns they use. Instructors and others can refer to these people by name, or by “they/them/their” pronouns as a gender-neutral alternative. However, just because someone’s pronouns are unspecified, it doesn’t mean you should assume their pronouns based on their name or appearance. Navigating these situations requires some discretion. You can respectfully ask someone what pronouns they use, but do so knowing that gender non-conforming people and people transitioning need to come out with their pronouns on their own terms.

How do I respectfully ask someone what pronouns they use?

Ask them “what pronouns do you go by?” or “what pronouns would like me to use?” They will appreciate that you asked so simply and respectfully, and they might reciprocate by asking you what pronouns you go by too.

What if I make a mistake and use the wrong pronoun?

Just apologize, correct yourself, and move on.

For example, “Oh, I’m sorry, I meant they, not he.”

Everyone makes mistakes. What’s important is that you don’t make the situation worse for the person by over-apologizing, thereby drawing even more attention to them and putting a burden on them to make you feel better. Just apologize and learn from your mistake.

What if someone else makes a mistake?

Find a polite and quick way to correct them, and then move on.

For example, “Actually, Ty uses he/him pronouns.”

If someone repeatedly uses the wrong pronoun, polite corrections may be appreciated even more. Transgender and gender non-conforming people grow tired from correcting others, and the mark of a true ally is helping them with your gender-affirming support.

What pronoun use is considered offensive?

It’s offensive to use terms like “he-she” and “it” when referring to people in general, and especially to transgender and gender non-conforming people. Using the wrong pronoun for a transgender person—e.g., referring to a transgender woman as “he”—is also offensive.

Should I report offensive behavior?

Report intentional misuse and offensive behavior using the UW bias reporting tool. Intentional or malicious pronoun misuse and other offensive behavior has no place in the UW community. People can apologize for and correct accidental misuse, but continued intentional misuse is offensive, should be reported, and may result in disciplinary action. Referring to people using the wrong pronouns, especially on purpose, is disrespectful and can lead to feelings of alienation, exclusion, and overall dysphoria. So please don’t hesitate to report these cases.

Student Data Users

How do I integrate pronouns into my system?

The Office of the University Registrar is partnering with UW-IT to enable integration of pronoun data into other systems. Please contact UW-IT for more information.

Are pronouns integrated into any reports?

Pronoun data will be available from UW-IT Reporting and Analytics based on prioritization and resourcing of data integrations into the Enterprise Data Warehouse and related services.