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Writing TipsWRITING TIPS
Avoiding Sexist Language

 
 

Example of Sexist Language and Alternative Usage

Inappropriate Example

More Appropriate Example

Explanation

The policeman uses his common sense to guide him.

Police officers use their common sense to guide them.

or

The police officer uses common sense as a guide.

Use gender-neutral terms for occupations and plural nouns.

or

Delete "he", "his", or "him" and reword if necessary.

The student finished it and he was pleased.

The student finished it and was pleased.

Delete "he" when using compound verbs.

If a hiker plans ahead, he will be much safer.

The hiker who plans ahead has a greater chance of being safe.

Use "who" for "he".

If you are a government official, you are expected to bring your wife to the party.

If you are a government official, you are expected to bring your spouse to the party.

Use "spouse" to refer to husband or wife.

After a student graduates from nursing, she must look diligently for a job.

After a student graduates from nursing, he or she must look diligently for a job.

Use "he" or "she" when referring to a profession that includes both men and women.

Each child must have a reading book with him in class.

All children must have a reading book with them in class.

or

All children must have a reading book in class.

Change singular nouns to plural and use either a gender-neutral pronoun or no pronoun at all.

A patient should meet with his doctor.

A patient should meet with his or her doctor.

When it's not possible to eliminate the pronoun, use both male and female pronouns.

A man should be careful when commenting about other people.

One should be careful when commenting about other people.

or

Be careful when commenting about other people.

Use "one" instead of "man" or delete the pronoun and reword the sentence.


General Use

When possible, use inclusive language and avoid narrowing your statements with sexist language.

Inappropriate

Appropriate

mankind

humankind, humans, people

manpower

personnel

man-made

manufactured, synthetic, machine-made

brotherhood of man
(when referring to all people)

the human family


Occupations

It is inappropriate to use "-man" in occupational terms when both males and females could hold the job.

Inappropriate

Appropriate

chairman

chair, chairperson, head, moderator

clergyman

member of the clergy, minister

fireman

firefighter

foreman

supervisor

mailman

postal worker, letter carrier, mail carrier

policeman

police officer, peace officer

salesman

sales person, sales clerk, sales associate

weatherman

weather forecaster, meteorologist

workman

labourer, worker

cleaning lady

cleaner, custodian, house cleaner, office cleaner