Re: Tech-Whirl? and my 2 cents on the gender issue (fwd)

Subject: Re: Tech-Whirl? and my 2 cents on the gender issue (fwd)
From: Matt Hicks <matt -at- UNIDATA -dot- UCAR -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 1 Jun 1994 08:34:16 -0600

Well, I sent this out last week, but it got bounced somewhere along the

I've always said "the techwar list". "Tech-Whirl" is just way too wimpy
sounding for my taste--it's just too cute. Of course, if the person
you're talking to knows about us at all, just about any variant will
probably make as much sense as any other. So pick what works for you and
run with it.

Oh, and I find "they/their" to be the best substitute for he/she/his/her.
As was noted in a previous post, this usage has been common for centuries, and
therefore, it is readily understood (readers readily understand it?). I
find "s/he" either disrupts the reading flow (I translate it mentally to
"he or she") or I just read it as "she". In either case, a simple pronoun
has become a textual symbol pointing to not just an unknown user, but to
the entire issue of gender equality. If you are at all like me, reading
"he" makes you think the writer was insensitive, ignorant, or lazy;
reading "he/she", "he or she", or "s/he" makes you think about either the
awkwardness of the construction or the issue that provoked it; and
reading "he" alternating with "she" causes a disturbing flip-flop of the
gender of the mental actor you create as you read. Only "they" is
unobtrusive enough that I can maintain my focus on the information the
writer presents and not the political issues that they dealt with when

I am not unsympathetic to those who argue that there is a lack of
agreement between a singular subject and the pronoun "they", but the
context of the sentence almost always makes the number of actors clear,
or it can be recast so that it does so. Of course, I generally write docs
in the second person and avoid this issue.

Matt Hicks, Tech. Writer, Unidata * I may not agree with what you
Boulder, CO, (303)497-8676, ******* say, but I'll defend to the
matt -at- unidata -dot- ucar -dot- edu ************* death my right to mock you.

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