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Gwen said... "It also suggested that we did not credit
our customers to have enough intelligence to understand
'he' as a generic pronoun rather than a gender-specific
one." Having worked in two companies that both functioned
in male-dominated industries, I can honestly say that
most members of my audiences (internal and external)
showed through their verbal comments that they DO NOT see
"he" as a generic pronoun. THAT'S THE PROBLEM.
While I do agree that "she" might be awkward -- and, therefore,
inappropriate -- in some manuals, it seems a shame that
many of us have just given up and accepted the conventions
of our male-dominated society as proper. Along the same
lines, using "she" to denote traditionally female roles
(e.g. nurses) reflects the patriarchal definition of women's
work. That's no better than relying solely on "he."
My response to all of that was to use other terms, such
as "the operator," or "the care manager." In procedural
manuals I found it was often not necessary to use third
person much anyway. Much of the information was in an
active, command voice.
I hope I haven't ruffled too many feathers, but come on
everybody... don't send us back in time.