Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Non-sexist language

From Purdue University website

Generic Use

Although MAN in its original sense carried the dual meaning of adult human and adult male, its meaning has come to be so closely identified with adult male that the generic use of MAN and other words with masculine markers should be avoided.


mankind [humanity, people, human beings]
man's achievements [human achievements]
man-made [synthetic, manufactured, machine-made]
the common man [the average person, ordinary people]
man the stockroom [staff the stockroom]
nine man-hours [nine staff-hours]


Avoid the use of MAN in occupational terms when persons holding the job could be either male or female.


chairman [coordinator (of a committee or department), moderator (of a meeting), presiding officer, head, chair]
businessman [business executive]
fireman [firefighter]
mailman [mail carrier]
steward and stewardess [flight attendant]
policeman and policewoman [police officer]
congressman [congressional representative ]

Because English has no generic singular--or common-sex--pronoun, we have used HE, HIS, and HIM in such expressions as "the student needs HIS pencil." When we constantly personify "the judge," "the critic," "the executive," "the author," and so forth, as male by using the pronoun HE, we are subtly conditioning ourselves against the idea of a female judge, critic, executive, or author. There are several alternative approaches for ending the exclusion of women that results from the pervasive use of masculine pronouns.
a. Recast into the

Give each student his paper as soon as he is finished.
[Give students their papers as soon as they are finished. ]

b. Reword to eliminate gender problems.
The average student is worried about his grade.
[The average student is worried about grades. ]

c. Replace the masculine
pronoun with ONE, YOU, or (sparingly) HE OR SHE, as appropriate.

If the student was satisfied with his performance on the pretest, he took the post-test.

[A student who was satisfied with her or his performance on the pretest took the post-test. ]

d. Alternate male and female examples and expressions. (Be careful not to confuse the reader.)

Let each student participate. Has he had a chance to talk? Could he feel left out?
[Let each student participate. Has she had a chance to talk? Could he feel left out? ]

Indefinite Pronouns
Using the masculine pronouns to refer to an indefinite pronoun (everybody, everyone, anybody, anyone) also has the effect of excluding women. In all but strictly formal uses, plural pronouns have become acceptable substitutes for the masculine singular.

Anyone who wants to go to the game should bring his money tomorrow.
[Anyone who wants to go to the game should bring their money tomorrow. ]

Go to Purdue University's website to learn more.


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