“Gender-neutral Language” Author: Dennis G. Jerz By: Rahul Patel
Introduction • Avoiding Stylistic Clunkers, clichés • Fixing over-correction of Official titles • Take a look at Grammatical Whimsy • Take a look at Star Trek and gendered language • Using Special Terms that refer to Women, doing this the right way • Examples and quick fixes for being gender-neutral
Avoiding Stylistic clunkers • 1. Over-correction of Historical Phrases “EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF” Ex: Every man or woman for himself or herself • The above example is WAY TO clunky and stylistically awkward Ex: Everyone for yourselves • The above example is perfect because its not too long but concise and its gender neutral. Unfortunately its still more awkward then the original phrase.
Avoid Clichés • The Cliché “No man is an island” • Don’t ever use a gender-specific cliché because attempting to neutralize it will be difficult and it will no longer be a cliché, so avoid it at all costs Use “No man is an island, but with his great girth stretched out on his inflatable raft, Bill sure looked like one.”
Over-correction of Official Titles “ Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve system” • Changing Chairman would be changing his title so use “Chair” rather then “Chairman” • Use “Ben S. Bernanke, who chairs the Board of Governors…” • Or “The Chair is Ben S. Bernanke”
Grammatical Whimsy • The word “Womyn” has been used to avoid using “man” • “A writer should sharpen her pencils daily.” • Solution: • DON’T EVER USE “Womyn” and pluralize writer so the word “their” can be used instead of her or his. “Writers should sharpen their pencils daily.”
Star Trek and Gendered Language “…To boldly go where no man has gone before.” • Simply by using the word “man” to mean everyone is gender-specific. • Solution: “…To boldly go where we have never gone before.” ensures the best/least awkward replacement. Also by say “we have never” it also encompasses the other races on star trek.
Special terms that refer to Women • Older professions have distinctions between female and male employees such as “stewardess[,]waitress[,] actress” • To most people when saying Pilot or photographer, the image of a man comes to mind. So when it’s a pilot who is a woman it has to be explicitly stated or does it? • If its important to know the gender then refer to the person by their name and the reader will be able to figure out if it’s a man/woman pilot.
Examples • Instead of Dear Sir • Use Dear Sir or Madam, this tends to occur only once in a letter so repetition is not an issue. • Instead of policeman • Use police officer, this is a quick fix and only really a few extra letters. • Instead of gunman • Use shooter, especially when the suspect is unknown.
I leave you all with one final questionDoes Gender-specific Language Affect our thinking?I will take questions at this time.