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Sexism - Other Solutions

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Other tricks can help you avoid the problem of sexist writing:

1. When you need a possessive pronoun, don’t write his or her. Instead, use an article so that the need for a pronoun goes away.

The writer should submit his manuscript. The writer should submit the manuscript.

 

2. Delete the phrase containing the pronoun. You might not need it.

When a doctor reviews the reports delivered to him each day . . . . When a doctor reviews the reports delivered each day . . . .

 

3. Repeat the noun, if the two don’t appear too close together.

An applicant must complete the application form and include a complete employment history. He or she must also include . . . .

becomes:

An applicant must complete the application form and include a complete employment history. The applicant must also include . . . .

 

4. When writing instructions, use the second-person you.

An applicant must complete the application form and include a complete employment history. He or she must also include . . . .

becomes:

You must complete the application form and include a complete employment history. You must also include . . . .

 

5. Try redesigning the sentence and use the relative pronoun who.

If an applicant wants to obtain an interview, he or she must check the appropriate box on the application form.

becomes:

An applicant who wants to obtain an interview must check the appropriate box on the application form.

 

6. As mentioned above, make your antecedents plural.

An applicant must complete the application form and include a complete employment history. He or she must also include . . . .

becomes:

Applicants must complete the application form and include a complete employment history. They must also include . . . .

Avoid "He/She"

If you must refer to a singular, generic type of person, please avoid those language-destroying structures no one wants to read or say: he-she, him-her, his-her, or worse (s)he.

Instead, use the masculine and stick with it. Or use the feminine and stick with it. Or, in rare cases, use the disjunctive he or she.

Or, if you want to be ahead of the curve, go ahead and make the “mistake”: use they-their-them to refer to a singular antecedent. If an editor of an internationally known publishing company can get away with it, so can you.

At least in speech.

In your master’s thesis, however, follow traditional rules on agreement in number.

A Company Is an "It"

If the antecedent is a collective or group noun (team, group, band, family, etc.), you should use the singular pronoun it or its when the collective acts as a unit. Thus:

The band practiced its marching technique. The committee reached its decision. When the company filed its complaint, it brought antitrust charges against Acme, Inc.

But—there’s always a but when it comes to grammar—if the members of the group are acting individually, you should use the plural pronoun they, their, or them. Take a look at some examples Mr. Follett provides:

The family discussed their differences all the time and wherever they went. One by one the jury wrote their votes on slips of paper. Follett, p. 31.

We’ll return to the problem of gender and number when we discuss the indefinite pronouns below. But that takes care of the personal pronouns, so let’s move on to the others.

 

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