Using Gender-Inclusive Language

WRITTEN January 26, 2023 Author: Patricia McCormack

Communication with gender-inclusive language is characterized by the use of language that is neutral and not biased towards any particular gender. 

There are many reasons for using gender-inclusive language. One need is to nurture the growth of a more welcoming and respectful community for people of all genders.

In our evolving social climate, gender-inclusive language also helps to create a more accepting environment for trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people. These individuals may not identify as exclusively male or female and may be uncomfortable being referred to with gendered pronouns. Gender-neutral language helps to foster a more welcoming space for everyone.

Accidental and sometimes careless use of gendered language perpetuates stereotypes. It can marginalize any who do not conform to traditional gender roles. For example, the use of the pronoun “he” to refer to a person of an unknown gender actually reinforces the idea that men are the default. This makes it so that even women are not as important, let alone other gender-types.


Keeping language inclusive means using gender-neutral pronouns, such as they/them/their, instead of gendered pronouns like he/him/his or she/her/hers. It can also include avoiding gendered words, like “manpower” or “mankind,” and instead using more inclusive terms like “work force” or “people.”

Using gender-inclusive language is actually more accurate and objective when referring to groups of people. For example, instead of saying “ladies and gentlemen,” it is more inclusive to say “everyone” or “folks.”


Breaking old habits takes effort. Consistently using gender inclusive language will not happen overnight. It’s not always perfect and it’s not always easy. But it is important.

Even the rules are adapting. In the past decade it has officially gone in the books: it is now grammatically acceptable to use the gender-neutral pronoun “they” even when referring to a singular. Previously, the recommendation was to use the phrase “he or she.”

Take the first step and make it happen. It is not as daunting as it seems. For example, one simple move such as changing “hey guys” to “hey everyone”, moves the greeting to a gender-neutral format and helps avoid potential discrimination.

Overall, using gender neutral and inclusive language is an important step towards growing your communication skills to be more inclusive, respectful, and accurate.

It will take practice. It may take time. But, making small changes in our language, will make a big impact on the way we think, talk, and ultimately perceive the world around us.

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

Other Resources:

Can Gender-Fair Language Reduce Gender Stereotyping and Discrimination? (Academic Research Paper)

Using Gender-Fair or Neutral Language (Furman.EDU)

Guidlines for Gender-Inclusive Language in English – (The U.N. Website)

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