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I usually find discussions of non-gender-specific pronoun choice tedious, and they are usually off-topic. I mean we've solved that one already, haven't we?
But yesterday I was helping a pediatrician friend with some instruction sheets that she hands to mothers of newborns, and this presented an interesting challenge.
First, the audience is cognitively impaired. I'm not being facetious. New mothers are almost always sleep-deprived. Further, their brains are soaking in high levels of all sorts of wonderful hormones that help them bond with their babies but that do nothing for their reading abilities. (Think about writing for people who have to understand written instructions while they are inebriated and everyone around them is screaming gibberish.)
The question on the floor was how to refer to the baby. "Baby this" and "Baby that" and "Baby the other thing" gets tedious and does not aid readability. The pediatrician's simplifying convention of always referring to mother as she and baby as he, which is fine for professional literature, does not work when you are addressing the mother of a girl. (Aside from the fact that politically sensitive mothers would be offended, cognitively impaired mothers would just be confused.) And using they, while I can justify it on historical grounds and don't mind using it in business writing, similarly won't cut it with mothers.
The solution? Two versions of every handout, one for boys, one for girls. We'll cross the bridge of boy-girl twins when we come to it.
The cost? Nothing. These are produced a few copies at a time, not printed by the thousand; or they are emailed as PDFs.
Maintenance? Well, I suppose I could use this as a practice exercise for XML. Yeah, I think I'll do that. But, in the meantime, these are one-page documents; so it's not a big deal to revise one master version and then use search and replace to do one for the other gender. (I'd have said the other s_x, but you know those email filters.)
I was kinda pleased with myself for coming up with this workaround, and I wanted to share ;-)
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