How Can We Use Gender-Neutral Language?

We used to talk about chairmen, spokesmen, policemen and policewomen, fishermen, manpower, mankind, the man in the street and so on.

Today, we prefer gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language. This means using alternatives for words or terms containing “man” when we mean people of all genders.

So instead of:                use:
man-made                     manufactured, artificial
mankind                         humankind
manpower                     personnel, staff, workers
the man in the street   the average person
best man for the job    best person for the job
to man                            to operate, to staff
man hours                      person hours
layman                            layperson, non-specialist
chairman                        chairperson
policeman/-woman     police officer
firemen                           firefighters
fishermen                       fishers
tradesman                      tradesperson
craftsman                       craftsperson
materinity/paternity
leave                                parenthood leave

It’s now widely accepted to use they and the associated pronouns, even when talking about a word in the singular, as the following examples show.

Gender-discriminatory language:
“A small business owner needs to know how his products, services and marketing strategy compare to local, regional, national and international competitors.”

Gender-sensitive language:
“A small business owner needs to know how their products, services and marketing strategy compare to local, regional, national and international competitors.”

It’s important that we treat people with respect—and that means also paying attention to the language we use.

 

2 Comments

  1. I have another example that NASA introduced a few years back:

    They changed their terminology from “manned missions” to “crewed missions”. I like that.

    Reply
    • Hannah, that’s a wonderful example. Thank you for telling me.

      Reply

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