Monday, April 20, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: Gender Bias-Free Language

Let’s face it. Creating gender-neutral language is never as easy as it seems. On the one hand, many find using the generic masculine pronoun unacceptable, even though “he” is in reference to no one in particular. On the other hand, it can be distracting to use nontraditional devices to use the generic masculine, like “he/she” or even “s/he.” Even the use of “they” can be distracting and, at times, confusing. In order to achieve this invisible gender neutrality takes some serious hard work.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, the use of “it,” if used correctly, can help this dilemma. “It” eliminates gender even if the noun has a sex. Using “it” indicates that the sex is either unknown or unimportant. The use of “we,” “you,” or even “they” at times can be used indefinitely in the sense of “persons,” “one,” or “people in general.” If speaking for a group, “we” can be used and is sometimes called the editorial “we.” Writers also use “we” to make their writing appear less personal as a way to draw in the reader.

Deciding the best way to evoke gender neutrality can be difficult and a bit confusing. However you decide to go about it, be sure to consult your handy Chicago Manual of Style at for the method which will best suit your particular writing needs!

1 comment:

  1. Good advice! Straight and to the point.