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Avoiding Sexist Language


Sexist language uses stereotypes and reflects language that is inappropriate.
It uses language that unnecessarily identifies gender. You can easily avoid using sexist language by thinking about the underlying meaning in the words that you use.

Here are several illustrations of common sexist language:

  1. Using a single sex pronoun when the information relates equally to either or both sexes.

    English has no generic singular pronoun or gender-neutral pronoun; consequently, the pronouns “he”, “him”, or “his” have been used to represent either males or both males and females. There are several alternative approaches for including females when appropriate. A general rule is to choose the pronoun that is most natural in that particular context.

    For example

    Every teacher should have his grades in by the end of next week.

    The use of “his” implies that there are no female teachers.

    Revised sentence

    Teachers should have their grades in by the end of the week.

    The pronoun “his” and “every” are deleted, and the sentence is reworded to make it gender-neutral.

  2. Using a job title that only includes one sex when either sex can do the job.

    For example

    The mailman delivers the mail around 10 a.m.

    The use of “mailman” implies that only men do the job.

    Revised sentence

    The letter carrier delivers the mail around 10 a.m.

    “Letter carrier” is gender-neutral, so it includes both males and females.

  3. Using a neutral job title in conjunction with a single sex pronoun so that it appears the job is only performed by a single sex.

    For example

    The head nurse’s responsibility is to be in charge of all her staff.

    The job title “nurse” is used in conjunction with the pronoun “her”, which implies that nurses are only women.

    Revised sentence

    The head nurse’s responsibility is to be in charge of all the staff.

    “Her” is deleted and “the” is used to make the statement gender-neutral.

  4. Using any type of language that unnecessarily distinguishes according to gender.

    For example

    After discovering fire, early man was able to heat up food.

    This statement could be more inclusive by replacing “man” with “humans” or “man and woman”.

    Revised sentence

    After discovering fire, early humans were able to heat up food.

    This statement is gender-neutral and inclusive of both sexes.