Pronouns and references: multi-replace or variables?

When it comes to writing our character pronouns that can be modified by the player, which method do you prefer? Do you set a gender using a variable and then use multi-replace to write out the different pronouns, or do you make several variables for all the references you’ll use and set them all once the player chooses their gender?

I’m really impartial to both. Using multi-replace saves me from having to create a bunch of variables at the beginning and gives me greater flexibility because I can only use the pronouns and references that I actually need. On the other hand, it forces me to write out each unique variant based on gender every single time. Variables make it easy to insert text using a pre-determined text string, but it forces me to set all of them and I also have to create a new one for every single reference I want to use (boyfriend, husband, boy, guy, etc.)

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I personally prefer using variables. There may be a lot of them (and sometimes I have to go back and add more), but then when I’m actually writing, I don’t have to worry about it anymore


I use a combination. For pronouns and gendered honorifics I use variables - {blaise_he}, {blaise_him} etc. Then for verbs where singular they is used, I use multireplace with a variable called charactername_singular that gets set to false if a character uses they/them . I started out doing multireplace for pronouns too, but Abby pointed out that that’s harder to change across an entire game if desired, and also harder to debug. So my code looks a lot like this (forgive any errors, I’m on my phone):

Blaise's jaw clenches. "$!{name}, don't talk to me like that," ${blaise_he} @{blaise_singular snaps|snap}. 

Just like @HannahPS, though I prefer

${blaise_he} snap@{blaise_singular |s}.

One less “snap” in the code!
Yes, I’m that masochistic.


Was playing around with some code and came up with this…
Someone could probably work this into something usable, I’m sure! :sweat_smile:

*title Test

*temp p0 1
*temp p1 "@{p0 he|him|his|his|himself}"
*temp p2 "@{p0 she|her|her|hers|herself}"
*temp p3 "@{p0 they|them|their|theirs|themself}"

p0 = 1

*gosub display
*set p0 2

p0 = 2

*gosub display
*set p0 3

p0 = 3

*gosub display
*set p0 4

p0 = 4

*gosub display
*set p0 5

p0 = 5

*gosub display

*label display
*set p1 "@{p0 he|him|his|his|himself}"
*set p2 "@{p0 she|her|her|hers|herself}"
*set p3 "@{p0 they|them|their|theirs|themself}"
p1 = ${p1}
p2 = ${p2}
p3 = ${p3}

I’m more on the variable side.

Note that for most verbs, you can use a single variable to be set to either “s” or blank “” and stick that at the end of a verb…

$!{ze} walk${s} over.

One major advantage of variables for pronouns is that it makes it possible to allow the player to set them rather than only using preset ones.

Variables for gendered terms also tend to be more legible for reading the code, at least if they have obvious names.


And then you get verbs where the plural is not just a simple s. Also too easy too lose track compared to just using both

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I used variables back when I tried to set this up, but I think multireplace didn’t exist back then so I haven’t checked pros and cons.

It’s probably a good idea to write out all the pronoun forms you’ll use before you start so you know what plurals and possessives you’ll need to cover.


“His or Her” vs. Singular “They”

Around 1795, the language authorities Lindley Murray, Joseph Priestly, and Hugh Blair, amongst others, campaigned against pronoun irregularities in pronoun use, such as lack of agreement in gender and number. Without coining words, this can only be done in the third person singular by use of compound terms like “his or her”. Grammarians in 1879, 1922, 1931, 1957, and the 1970s have accepted “they” as a singular term that could be used in place of “he” or “he or she”, though sometimes limiting it to informal constructions. Others in 1795, 1825, 1863, 1898, 1926, and 1982 argued against it for various reasons. And whatever the grammarians might argue, people have been using the singular “they” for about the last 600 years, though (as mentioned earlier) it can only be applied in certain cases. If new gender-neutral pronouns are not adopted, i’m sure that singular “they” will still be a point of contention for centuries to come. For further information on the use of singular “their” throughout the centuries, see the large body of information that Henry Churchyard has compiled on the subject.

I personally use singular they when talking about a nonbinary person or a hypothetical or unidentified gender, he when talking about a male person, and she when talking about a female person.

I would also not use singular they in a news article in a historical game from the period when the Associated Press style guide banned singular they, but I would use it in the narration or alternately I would set it in Second Panoceanic War between the enlightened Islamic Democracy in North America vs the Holy Roman Empire vs. The Comintern headed by the Union Of Rome and the Democratic People’s Republic Of France and then I will have the United Broadsheets manual of style require singular they.

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This is less about the types of pronouns we use, I’m mostly just interested in the variable v. multi-replace preferences. I always use singular they and use “non-binary” to indicate a multitude of gender identities, but that may not be ideal. But that’s a topic for a different… topic.

I actually like this, it significantly cuts down on the need for multi-replace and makes it easy to use variables. I always forget that you can use variables and stuff in strings.


I use variables and write {he} or {his}.

For possession, I always write the characters name.
For example: ‘The wand is Harry’s’ rather than ‘The wand is his.’

I keep the gender of all my characters fixed at the start (apart from Blackraven which is a special case where all the genders are flipped) so for non-binary characters, there is no problem.

For the PC, unless you are listening to other NPC’s talk about you, the issue wouldn’t come up. As such it’s on the rare side so I’d do a gender check and personalise the response.

The hardest thing is keeping it consistant and remembering to write ‘${he}’ rather than just ‘he’.

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I feel like with variables modifying pronouns it’s some work at the beginning, but little work during the actual writing, while with multi-replace it’s a little work at the beginning and a lot of work during the writing. I’m still getting used to multi-replace though. :thinking:


This is a trick to be used sparingly, but sometimes you can use a character’s name or “that person” and people won’t notice. However, I only resort to it when I’m trying to describe various anime characters where for complex lingual reasons a pair of girls start dating and it is literally weeks before one of them realizes the other isn’t a boy and the latter realizes the former didn’t know that to begin with.

Because in Japanese you don’t use gendered pronouns very much and when you do sometimes you are a girl who is using a masculine first person pronoun because you’re The Major and you are a girl who talks like a guy. And pretty often you use ano hito, lit “that person”, as a third/second person pronoun.

Suffice it to say that the example in the previous paragraph is real and the punchline was when the second girl’s sister yelled about how the first girl was taking big sister away from her and then the second girl used a feminine first person pronoun when apologizing and then her family said basically “oh no not again”. I got to read the translator liveblogging around how this was such an incredible pain to translate.

I generally think you can slip it past people for two sentences in a row but by three they’ll realize this is a bit stilted.

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Isn’t that the more reason to use multireplace?

Speaking of singular they, do you use “is” or “are” auxiliary?

I gave people the choice whether or not they use singular and plural in my thing.

I always keep the grammar plural (“they are” instead of “they is”) just because it reads clearer. My reptilian brain always hitches when I see a quantitative mismatch.


I basically don’t remember I ought to pick one so I flip back and forth basically at random depending on which feels better in a particular sentence.

I would like to have a new pronoun set that’s basically singular they just so we don’t have that problem, but I don’t believe in grammar proscriptivism so I just deal and use “that person” when I don’t want to call attention to the fact that I haven’t told the reader a character’s gender and singular they otherwise.

Also in my Nanoha/Who crossover I had to deal with the fact that Otto is either male or female and because (just imagine three paragraphs on the cultural context regarding the normally-masculine first-person pronoun “boku” that probably wouldn’t be very helpful) the characters know but I don’t.

So I said, “well thankfully Otto is Otto” and Otto and Otto’s sisters star for like twenty thousand words and I just never address Otto’s gender when writing about the cyborg siblings.

Just imagine that previous paragraph except I don’t say Otto or the cyborg siblings more than twice in the same paragraph.

And if you’re wondering why back when I first talked about gender representation in Samurai of Hyuuga I was so damn picky about “-chan” vs “-kun”, basically it is because Otto is often called “Otto-kun” and this doesn’t help me tell whether Otto is male or female. But if you’re talking to Lieutent Colonel Hayate Yagami and you call her Hayate-kun and you are not a full Colonel or higher ranked, Vice-captain Signum Yagami will deck you and then Hayate will scold her because punching people isn’t the right way to teach them not to misgender people. Then Admiral Chrono calls her Hayate-kun and no one bats an eye. Also Hayate won’t call Signum Signum-kun when scolding her but that’s just because she’s Hayate and not because it would be misgendering.

Because Japanese is its own language and it has its own rules and they are not the same as in English. For reference, in Hyuuga the Emperor could call a female ronin {name}-kun but also he could call a female ronin {name}-chan, {name}-san, or {name}-dono. He technically shouldn’t call anyone {name}-sama but if he’s pleased by your performance he might and you don’t say anything. Basically he is the Emperor and this is State Shinto era and I don’t remember if he’s necessarily always a god but he does own the Three Sacred Treasures given to his ancestor by “the great and mighty spirit Heavens Shining” aka Ameterasu-no-Okami so you are unworthy to even look at his face. He can use any honorific he wants.

Also, if you want to alter any aspect of the prior paragraph, change the title. Seriously. State Shinto was officially disbanded as part of the surrender terms after WWII but Folk Shinto is still Japan’s main religion. The surveys that say otherwise are kinda lost in translation and most Folk Shinto practictioners check “None”. You don’t want to have everything in the Kokiji be exactly the same, use any other title.

I use a mixture of variables and multi-replace. I’m allowing the player to set the gender of each of the main characters so I end up having to set variables like:
mc_heshe, mc_himher, etc.
with mc being the main character, then just using ${mc_heshe} in the text sorts out the issue of having to worry about genders. I use multi-replace for those odd bits that don’t happen often enough to justify writing code to set a variable.

I can end up with a lot of variables but if they improve the flow of the text, that’s a price worth paying - I think.


Currently my WIP uses pronoun and verb variables exclusively, and I ran into only one or two cases where irregular phrasing got in the way. However, as I get more comfortable using multireplace, I aim to change that. I already put in place booleans to help with verbs, and in my next round of code cleanup, I hope to streamline my pronoun code considerably. My next game wil use variables for pronouns and multireplace for verbs.

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