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Writing Gender-Neutral Language

Gender-neutral language is less about sexism than it is about doing what writers have always had to do: concentrate on writing clearly, accurately, and unambiguously.

Writing in gender-neutral language doesn't mean we have to change what we write, we just have to think a little harder about the way we write it.

Up until the 16th century, the word girl meant a young boy or girl. Just as we don't use girl to mean boy any more, we can't use he where she may be just as applicable. This can cause ambiguity, and ambiguity can cause miscommunication.

Gender-Neutral Goes Both Ways

It's important to remember that gender-neutral language affects both genders - it's just as important not to use she where it could mean he as the other way around.

Don't just replace every second he in content with a she and call it politically correct - that isn't what gender-neutral language is about. The writing will be even more ambiguous than it was before - and as a writing exercise, it's just plain ugly.

Don't Get Carried Away

Don't change something just because it's gender-specific - check that it's right first.

A Chairman of the Board may be male or female, a Chairperson can also be of either gender. A female Chair might prefer to be called a 'Chairwoman' - or not. If the official title is 'Janet Smith, Chairman of the Board', it's not our job to change it.

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