International Women’s Day on 8 March 2014 is an opportunity to focus on the importance of being inclusive by using gender-neutral or gender-free language. Simple choices in occupational titles or pronouns can make a big difference.
- use Chair, not Chairman
- use spokesperson, not spokesman
- use web manager, not web master
- use actor, not actress
- use labour or human resources, not manpower
- use the verb staff, not man.
Avoid gender-specific pronouns to ensure gender-neutral and bias-free references to individuals. There are several options to rewrite sentences, and the best choice will depend on the circumstances.
For instance, in the sentence “Every award nominee should bring his ticket”, choices are:
- rewrite the sentence so the subject and pronoun are plural: “Nominees should bring their tickets”
- use the gender-free subject you and pronoun your: “You should bring your ticket”
- repeat the gender-neutral subject noun: “Every nominee should bring the nominee’s ticket”
- leave out the pronoun: “Every nominee should bring the ticket”
- use the plural pronoun “their” with a singular subject: “Every nominee should bring their ticket”.
The last option is increasing in use.