Re: Gender Reference

Subject: Re: Gender Reference
From: Mike Pope <mikep -at- ASYMETRIX -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 10:28:00 PDT

David Dubin writes:

>In writing technical documentation it has been generally taboo to use any
>form of gender reference, such as he or she. Alternatives I have seen have
>ranged from using the third person plural to the new form; (s)he.

>I would appreciate any feed back from colleagues who use these, or
>alternatives to these. I am reviewing our style manual, and am not happy
>simply stating that gender reference should not be used. I would like to be
>able to provide examples/alternatives. Thanks in advance for your time.

Where I live, the spoken version of this gender-free pronoun is "they", as
in, "the user can indicate their preference ...". I only mention this
because just last week someone around here was making a serious pitch to
make this pronoun part of our written styleguide, sending shudders through
the editorial staff. Nonetheless, there is no elegant substitute ...

In our own styleguide, we're given this advice:

* However [...] don't refer to someone as female if that informaiton is
beside the point.

* [...] don't use odd constructions such as s/he or he/she to avoid
writing problems. These
constructions call undue attention to themselves and distract from
your point .... If you can't
avoid using a gender-specific pronoun, choose either "he" or "she"
and stay with your
choice through your piece.

I've noticed that publications that talk about children (Dr. Spock, Parents
magazine) routinely alternate "he" and "she".


-- Mike Pope
mikep -at- asymetrix -dot- com

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