How to use Gender-Neutral language?

This entry was posted in Book writing,Editing,Fiction,Writing on February 1st, 2013 by

Gender neutral languageDoes it annoy you that the language used in our day-to-day life is very gender specific and usually avoids almost half of the population in this world? Here are some of the tips how you can use gender-neutral language for any piece of writing, be it fiction, non-fiction, thesis, essay or anything else.

1. Singular ‘they’

The most commonly used approach to avoid gender specific language is the use of singular ‘they’. This means that use of they (or its inflected forms, such as them or their) to refer to an entity that is not plural, or not necessarily plural. Though singular they is widespread in everyday English and has a long history of usage, debate continues about its acceptability. Some of the examples of singular they are:

  • Anyone who thinks they have been affected should contact their doctor
  • An RA is responsible for establishing a safe, welcoming living environment for their residents.

2. Gender-Neutral Pronouns 

Another technique to use gender-nuetral language is the use of gender-neutral pronouns, also called genderqueer pronouns. These pronouns have been established within trans, genderqueer, and intersex communities. While they are not widely used in mainstream English, gender-neutral pronouns are well-known and accepted within these communities. Many gender-neutral pronouns have been created. While there is no consensus on a standard of gender-neutral pronouns, ‘ze’ is the most common subject pronoun, and ‘hir’ and ‘zir’ are the most commonly used pronouns for objective and possessive cases.

Ze (subject):
Ze got accepted into college!

Hir or zir (object):
We invited hir to join us for supper.
We invited zir to join us for supper.

Hir or zir (possessive):
I went to hir house yesterday, but ze wasn’t home.
I went to zir house yesterday, but ze wasn’t home.

Hirself or zirself (reflexive):
Ze read zirself to sleep.
Ze read hirself to sleep.

Note: There is no difference between zir and hir besides usage preference.

Example using non-sexist language:
A person must always check his or her facts before stating them out loud.

Example using gender-neutral pronouns:
A person must always check zir facts before stating them out loud.

3. Rewriting Sentences  Grammatically Correct and Gender-Neutral

Group words to use a plural pronoun properly:

People should always check their facts before stating them out loud.

Use the passive verb form:

Facts must always be checked by a person before stating them out loud.

Use “one” instead of “he or she”:

One must always check one’s facts before stating them out loud

Here are some of the words that can be replaced to make the language gander-neutral

the common man
businessman, businesswoman
the average person, ordinary people
cave dwellers, prehistoric people
chair, presiding officer, chairperson
business executive, manager
congressional representative
sales clerk, salesperson
fire fighter
flight attendant
server, food server

It is always better to use gender-neutral language to ensure that no sentiments are hurt.





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