RE: Checking assumptions at the door?

Subject: RE: Checking assumptions at the door?
From: "Jane Carnall" <jane -dot- carnall -at- digitalbridges -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2001 09:30:07 +0100

"Hart, Geoff" wrote:
> Opinions to the contrary notwithstanding, "he" _is_ considered inclusive
> modern discourse because it's become, for better or worse, the default.
> That's emphatically _not_ to say that this makes the decision to use "he"
> neutral decision; it has important consequences for one's audience, since
> large proportion of women (perhaps the majority) now consider "he" to
> exclude them.

Bruce Byfield wrote:
>Not that I'm trying to take you personally to task or anything, but this
>passage seems contradictory. If people are questioning the masculine
>personal pronoun and trying to avoid using it, then obviously it's not
>considered universally inclusive or the default.

I agree. It's one of the major changes that I think feminism has made in the
past quarter century: the use of 'he' as default (dates from the 17th
century, I think: I remember reading a grammarian defending that choice
"because He is more Noble") is no longer the standard in public discourse.
It is still *a* standard, but as someone's sig has remarked in this very
list, "the nice thing about standards in English is there are so many to
choose from".

However, standards in technical writing - at least in the UK - now solidly
favour the use of genderless writing and avoiding "he": and other standards
(newspaper style guides, etc) likewise seem to have changed.

What Geoff is saying is accurate as far as it goes, but doesn't go very far:
"He" has never been a neuter pronoun, it was merely used without too much
dissension because it was publicly acceptable to say that the male was the
norm or default. That this has now changed is inarguable. That the change is
relatively recent is also inarguable, but I doubt if it's reversible.

>Personally, I don't see any reason to preserve this bit of history, any
>more than bloodletting or public hangings.

None at all. <g>

Jane Carnall
Technical Writer, Digital Bridges, Scotland
Unless stated otherwise, these opinions are mine, and mine alone.


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Re: Checking assumptions at the door?: From: bbyfield

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