What is gender-inclusive language and why is it important?
According to the Linguistic Society of America, “inclusive language acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities.” Many style guides (including the Chicago Manual of Style) as well as academic institutions, such as Princeton University, have formalized policies around gender-inclusive language.
Because not all people fall under one of two categories for an individual’s biological sex or gender, it is best to edit the sentence to use plural pronouns (“they,” “their,” etc.) when possible. When singular pronouns cannot be avoided, alternate between male and female pronouns (in one example, use “he”; in the next example, use “she”).
Can “they” be used as a singular pronoun?
In English, there is no gender-neutral pronoun for a single person, but the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook recently permitted the singular use of “they” as a gender-neutral singular alternative. However, we strongly recommend avoiding this usage because it can create confusion for non-native English speakers.
What are some examples of gender inclusive language?
|Gendered noun||Gender-neutral noun|
|man||person, individual, people|
|mankind||people, human beings, humans, humanity, humankind|
|manmade||machine-made, fabricated, manufactured, artificial|
|the common man||the average person|
|chairman||chair, chairperson, coordinator, head|
|congressman||legislator, congressional representative|
|manpower||workers, workforce, staff, labor, human resources|
|Gendered pronouns||Gender-neutral pronouns|
|he, him, his/she, her, hers||they, them, their|
Source: “Gender-Inclusive Language,” Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
What’s an easy work-around for using “he or she” with “investor”?
To avoid “he or she,” change “investor” to “investors” (plural).
In the era of robo-advice, what about traditional headlines, such as “Man versus Machine”?
Consider rewriting the headline, even though AP Style holds that “man” may be used to connote both men and women. An alternate headline could be “Humans versus Machines.”
See also the Pronouns section.