Author Topic: Techniques for gender-free or gender-neutral writing  (Read 688 times)

Gerry T. Galacio

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Techniques for gender-free or gender-neutral writing
« on: December 01, 2023, 06:43:24 AM »
A. Introduction: traditional writing, gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language, gender-free language, singular they

Traditional writing uses masculine pronouns like "he" or "his" to refer to both men and women.

"Gender-neutral" language, on the other hand, uses "he or she," "his or her," "he/she," "his/her," "she or he," "her or his," "she/he," "her/his," or the "singular they." Another term for gender-neutral language is "gender-inclusive language."

Most Filipinos are not aware that "they" or "their" can be singular. Bryan A. Garner, author of "Garner’s Modern American Usage" says that "singular they" has existed in the English language as early as the Book of Proverbs of the Old Testament. Garner cautions, however, that if you work for an office or organization that doesn't know about "singular they," don't use it because people might think that you're illiterate.

The British Columbia Securities Commission advocates the use of "gender-free" language (Plain Language Style Guide, 2008). The BCSC explains that the occasional use of “he or she” and other gender-neutral terms may be non-intrusive, but their repetitive use distracts and annoys readers.


                               IMAGE CREDIT: GALLUP NEWS
Achieve gender-free language by making the subject plural


B. Example from the Plain Language Style Guide (2008)of the British Columbia Securities Commission:

Traditional use of masculine pronoun:

The borrower who is not prompt in making the payments due under his mortgage risks losing his home through a foreclosure procedure.

Gender-neutral language ("his or her"):

The borrower who is not prompt in making the payments due under his or her mortgage risks losing his or her home through a foreclosure procedure.

Gender-free language (by making the subject plural):

Borrowers who are not prompt in making the payments due under their mortgages risk losing their homes through foreclosure procedures.

C. Richard Lauchman, in his free PDF (A Handbook for Writers in the U.S. Federal Government), provides six ways to cut "his," "his/her," "his/hers," "his or her," "s/he":

1. Cut “his/her,” “his or her” from the sentence, if possible.

Original sentence:

Every writer must use his/her good judgment.

Rewritten:

Every writer must use good judgment.

2. Use "you."

Original sentence:

"Each researcher must bring his/her driver's license or other photo identification."

Rewritten:

You must bring your driver's license or other photo identification.

3. Make the first term plural, and then use "their."

Original sentence:

Each researcher must bring his/her driver's license or other photo identification.

Rewritten:

All researchers must bring their driver's license or other photo identification.

4. Use an article ("a," "an," or "the").

Original sentence:

Each researcher must bring his/her driver’s license or other photo identification.

Rewritten:

Each researcher must bring a driver’s license or other photo identification.

5. Write a passive construction.

Original sentence:

Each researcher must bring his/her driver’s license or other photo identification.

Rewritten:

A driver’s license or other photo identification is required.

6. In a lengthy document, you can use "he" and "she" interchangeably.

D. UN Guidelines for gender-inclusive language in English at https://www.un.org/en/gender-inclusive-language/guidelines.shtml with self-paced exercise in PDF format at https://www.un.org/en/gender-inclusive-language/assets/pdf/EN-Toolbox-Apply-the-guidelines-to-a-text_(self-paced).pdf

Topics discussed in the UN Guidelines are:

1. Use non-discriminatory language

1.1 Forms of address
1.2 Avoid gender-biased expressions or expressions that reinforce gender stereotypes

2. Make gender visible when it is relevant for communication

2.1 Using feminine and masculine pronouns
2.2 Using two different words

3. Do not make gender visible when it is not relevant for communication

3.1 Use gender-neutral words
3.2 Using plural pronouns/adjectives
3.3 Use the pronoun one
3.4 Use the relative pronoun who
3.5 Use a plural antecedent
3.6 Omit the gendered word
3.7 Use the passive voice

E. "Avoiding Sexism in Legal Writing — The Pronoun Problem" by Matthew Salzwedel:

Garner says that legal writers can simply avoid the pronoun problem by:

Deleting the pronoun. For example, instead of writing "No one can be elected to be a judge after he has reached the age of 65," a writer can say "No one can be elected to be a judge after the age of 65."

Changing the pronoun to an article like a(n) or the. For example, instead of writing "The attorney must file his brief by the deadline," a writer can say "The attorney must file the brief by the deadline."

Pluralizing the sentence so that he becomes they.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2023, 02:56:55 PM by Joe Carillo »