Dr. Stone Meredith, an instructor of composition, literature, and philosophy at CSU Global, often uses the collective second-person pronoun, 'y'all.'
When addressing students, I often use the collective second-person pronoun, 'y'all.' Recently, I was challenged on that word, saying it made me sound uneducated. Those words hurt my feelings, so I set out to see if this rudimentary part of my speech pattern sends the wrong message.
I began by researching gender-inclusive language on several LGBTQ+ pages, where I found helpful lists of pronouns, none that included y'all, but none that excluded it. But as this policy handout from OutandEqual.org demonstrates, y'all fits the bill for what it means to be gender inclusive. "You" is a gender-neutral pronoun in English, as our language is not gendered, and "all" is gender-neutral, too, implying, by definition, that one, more or many genders may be present in the group.
Feeling good about my use of y'all, I summoned the courage to ask my students what they thought of my consistent reference to the classroom as a collective y'all.
Across several sections of graduate and undergraduate composition, literature, and philosophy courses, not one student had anything but positive feelings about using the gender-neutral contraction ‘y'all.’
Perhaps what we can learn is that the use of the word y’all – or any regional expression of greeting for a group – should be read amid the tone, context, and intent. My experience and the research it inspired me to share serves as a reminder: if we are honest and curious as teachers, we can live in a state of continuous improvement, as our accreditors and administrators want us to do.
If y’all is not natural or appropriate for your setting, now is still the moment to ask: am I addressing my peers in gender-neutral ways that reflect both sincerity and a welcoming tone? When we greet our peers with tolerant curiosity, we set the tone, and that tone cascades to those around us, elevating us all.
In an ever-evolving landscape of identity and expression, the need for inclusive language has never been more apparent. International Pronouns Day, observed annually on the third Wednesday of October, is a crucial reminder that gender is not binary and everyone deserves to have their identities acknowledged and respected through appropriate pronouns. Dr. Stone Meredith, an instructor of composition, literature, and philosophy at CSU Global, has taught students of all ages and backgrounds for over two decades. She abides by a simple formula: be honest and speak to students like she would her closest friends. In doing so, Dr. Meredith often uses the collective second-person pronoun, 'y'all.'