Using Politically Correct
And Non-sexist Language
By Mamie Webb Hixon, Writing Lab Director
1. Avoid gender-biased
pronouns. With generic
antecedents such as person or student,
use his or
her and he or she: A
student should make good
grades if he or she studies hard.
2. Avoid using
trendy "pronouns" such as s/he,
he(she), s[he], s/his, or (s)he.
3. Use the
phrases his or her and he or she sparingly
to risk writing sentences such as If
needs his or her decal, he or she must
or her receipt with him or her.
4. If necessary, recast
the sentence by changing the
singular antecedent to a plural.
A student should make good grades if he
Students should make good grades if they
5. Alternate between
the singular masculine and
feminine pronouns if the result is not
The American worker is the most
person in the whole world: he's a
she's also a consumer.
6. Replace masculine
or feminine pronouns with one or
you, when appropriate: You
should make good
grades if you study hard.
7. Substitute other
words for "man" words.
| Sexist Usage
people, human beings, humanity
chair or chairperson
moderation, however, to avoid usage such as
Person the lifeboats
8. Substitute gender-neutral
words for gender-biased
| Sexist Usage
9. Include both male and female reference points.
| Sexist Usage
| You and your
|| You and your guest
| Dear Sir/Dear
(for an all-male
| Dear Sir or Madam or
Dear Madam or Sir
employees and wives
and guests/ companions/ partners
| Naval Officers' Wives
Officers' Spouses Club
10. Use women
and men instead of girls and boys or
gals and guys when
referring to adults.
"Stay tuned to the current terminology by which racial and ethnic
groups refer to themselves. Usage changes (e.g., from
["black"] to "African-American" and
"Oriental" to "Asian)." National newspapers and
television news are good indicators of current usage. Also, ask people
what term they prefer."
-- Florida Atlantic University flyer
on "Bias-Free Communications"
The Trouble with Articles
(Helpful Hints for Speakers of English as a
By Helen Richards
Have you ever been reading a sentence and
all of the sudden, WHAM!, you run smack into a noun? Those pesky nouns
have always been a problem, but now the grammar police have come up with
an advanced warning system. It's known as an article, and it lets you
know that a noun is approaching. Just watch how it works:
Sentence without article
Did you take
take the candy?
Notice in the first sentence that the verb take ran smack
into the noun candy. However, the article in the second sentence
signaled that a noun was approaching, and a collision of words was
Because all nouns are not
created equal, two types of articles are available for use: the definite
article and the indefinite article. "What's the difference?"
you ask. The definite article is the word the. It knows without a
doubt what noun is approaching; thus, it is definite. The indefinite
articles, the words a and an, really don't care what noun
is approaching, so the articles don't bother to check. That's why a
and an are called indefinite articles; they didn't bother to
look, so they are unsure or indefinite. Note the difference in the two
types of articles:
Did you take the cookie? This is a definite article in action.
Notice it wasn't just any cookie. It was the cookie.
Did you take a cookie? This is an indefinite article. Notice how it
didn't tell you which one. It didn't care which cookie, just a cookie.
The trouble with articles
is that uncountable nouns are particularly menacing and frighten away
indefinite articles. That is why you will never find an indefinite
article preceding an uncountable noun. On the other hand, definite
articles are not easily intimidated and can be used with countable
nouns. Here are a few examples of the uncountable nouns and how definite
articles, not indefinite, will warn the approach:
The air is polluted
An air is polluted.
The sand is hot
A sand is hot.
I live in the South
||I live in a South.
So the next time you are
reading a sentence, look for those articles because they are there to
warn you that a noun is approaching.