Gender-Fair Language

WRITTEN November 17, 2016 Author: Rich Atkins

Sexism, Discrimination, & Bias – OH MY!

Gender Fair or Nonsexist language is the standard today. It means selecting words that are gender neutral or gender inclusive. Avoid using “he” to stand for “he or she.”

Nonsexist language includes the following:

  • He/she, S/he, his/her, her/his, him/her, her/him
  • A person or people
  • Police officer (instead of Policeman, or “lady cop”)
  • Firefighter (instead of fireman)
  • Mail carrier (instead of mailman)
  • Humankind (instead of mankind)
  • Salesperson (instead of salesman)
  • Chairperson or Chair (instead of chairman)
  • Flight attendant (instead of stewardess)
  • Nurse (instead of male nurse)
  • Ladies and Gentlemen / Gentlemen and Ladies (instead of guys)

Avoid the colloquial term “guys” when addressing a mixed-gender audience. The word has the power to subconsciously exclude a substantial portion of the audience and also goes directly against the spirit of being “Gender-Fair.” Include all audience members in your words, and you will stand a better chance of winning them over to your way of thinking.

Read the Position Statement from the National Council of Teachers of English called “Guidelines for Gender-Fair Use of Language.” When possible, avoid exclusionary language. Choose inclusive alternatives.

This information is from our Business Writing curriculum. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes.


Photo courtesy of Michael Coghlan

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