The Use Of Gender-Neutral Language In Your Writing

Mar 9, 2008 | Grammar and Usage, Proofreading, Submit A Short Story Or Essay

Every language has its own rules for handling gendered terms and male or female pronouns (for example, Spanish nouns and articles are either masculine or feminine). In the English language, we must choose gender-neutral and nonsexist language whenever possible. Using Sensitive Language is key.

But how can we substitute non-gendered terms for gendered ones? How do we know if a phrase is sexist? How can we avoid issues of sexism and gender in our writing? And of course, how can we rewrite a sentence without using he or she?

How To Use Gender-free Terms When Writing Or Speaking:

1. To avoid saying he or she (or his or her), use the plural form for both nouns and pronouns.
Avoid: An effective teacher uses various strategies in his classroom.
Use: Effective teachers use various strategies in their classrooms. 2. Omit the pronoun.
Avoid: Each teacher will send one of his students to the assembly.
Use: Each teacher will send a student to the assembly.

3. Use his or her, he or she, or s/he when it is necessary to stress the action of an individual. This will be awkward if used too often. (Vary pronoun choice when possible.)
Avoid: If the student is unhappy with his grade, he will discuss it with the instructor.
Use: If the student is unhappy with the grade, he or she will discuss it with the instructor.

4. Change the third-person (she) to the second-person (you) or (you understood) when this change is appropriate for what you are writing.
Avoid: Each teacher should send in his grades by June 15.
Use: All grades must be sent in by June 15.

5. Use alternatives to language that trivializes or reinforces stereotypes.
Avoid: My girl will take the message.
Use: I will ask my assistant to take that message.

6. Treat men and women the same way when addressing them or alluding to them.
Avoid: Senator Chuck Schumer and Mrs. Bill Clinton attended the hearing.
Use: Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton attended the hearing.

If you don’t know the gender of the person you’re writing to, check out this article: Savvy Salutations: How To Write “Dear Someone” In A Query Letter.

Submit to Review Board

List Of Terms In Sexist Language And Alternative Word Choices
It is important to avoid exclusionary forms. The following words can be easily substituted with other words or expressions:

mankind: humanity or people
man the deck: staff the deck
chairman: chair
congressman: congresswoman
mailman: mail carrier
actress: actor
ladies: women
girls: women
stewardess: flight attendant
Miss or Mrs.: Ms.

To read more about sexist and gendered language, please feel free to check out  How To Properly Use The Terms “Ladies” And “Gentlemen” In Your Writing.