Re: On Avoiding Gender Bias

Subject: Re: On Avoiding Gender Bias
From: kcronin -at- daleen -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2001 06:26:13 -0700

A similar topic came up this summer, and Geoff Hart e-mailed me these
helpful examples of non-sexist writing techniques (thanks again, Geoff!):


- eliminate the pronoun: The editor must maintain good relations with
[delete "his"] authors.
- repeat the noun or refocus the meaning: The editor must maintain good
relations with authors. The editor's success [or refocusing: the success
the editing] depends on it.
- use plural forms: Editors [not: the Editor] must... with their...
- use neutral forms: Editors must account for the reader's [not: his or
- use the imperative where possible: Use your initiative [not: the reader
should use his own initiative]

In the example in this current post (which, incidentally, I think might be
a tad too formal with its use of words like "avail"), I think a simple
solution would be using "you" - You need to bring your ID to use this

There is a growing acceptance of plural pronouns like "their" referring to
only one subject, but many editors still balk at this usage. Personally
I'm an advocate of it, as I'm in favor of writing in a manner that
reflects conversational usage, and it seems MOST people talk that way.
Grammaticians may cringe, but I think ALL readers understand sentences
"Anyone who wants to use this facility should bring their ID card." Yes, I
advocate this concept, but no, I don't actually write that way. Not yet.

Those of us with a formal writing background (or who work for an editor
with this sort of backround) are still relegated to the old rules. The
language is evolving, but has not fully shed this particular linguistic
speed bump. At home, with the curtains pulled tight and the doors
double-locked, I write plural possessive pronouns to my heart's content
until the wee hours of the night. But when I return to work in the
morning, I strive for other, more accepted forms of non-sexist writing,
and yearn for the day when the Light of Understanding and Tolerance shines
down more fully on this great language. With liberty and pronouns for all.

- Keith Cronin


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