From "Do's and Don'ts of Inclusive Language" (1998) by the Media Task Force,Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women. Reprinted here with permission, October 1, 1999.
THROUGHOUT THIS ARTICLE: = AVOID USING THIS ! = USE THIS INSTEAD, AS APPROPRIATE.
The intent of this [article] is to highlight a few areas where we still find exclusivity or a sense of hierarchy in the use of language to place one group of people below others, creating or perpetuating negative social stereotypes. Given the spirit of inclusivity in our culture, some suggestions are provided here to avoid derogatory language. The examples are by no means comprehensive, but serve to remind us of areas where language discrimination still exists and causes unnecessary misunderstandings in our daily communication with the general public. The spirit of the "title" can be summed up in three general principles:
Don't single out a person's sex, race, ethnicity, or other personal traits or characteristics (such as sexual orientation, age, or a disability) when it has no direct bearing on the topic at hand. In other words, don't create or promote stereotype based on unavoidable human characteristics.
Be consistent in your description of members of a group: Don't single out women to describe their physical beauty, clothes or accessories or note a disabled person's use of an aid, or refer to the race of the only minority in a group unless it is at that individual's request.
Keep in mind that use of inclusive language is for general cases. Direct requests by individuals take precedence over general rules (e.g., Mrs. John Doe requests that her own name not be used).
Unless your writing is specifically focused on disabilities, avoid singling out one individual's disabilities simply for the sake of identification.
Avoid using words that imply victimization or create negative stereotypes. E.g., don't use descriptors such as "victim" or "sufferer" for someone with a disease, just identify the disease. Avoid using words such as "Poor," "unfortunate," or "afflicted."
Don't say "courageous" when you can say "successful" or productive."
Some general guidelines to follow are:
Degender, don't Re gender (e.g., degender chairman to chair, don't regender it to chairwoman).
Create gender-neutral terms: convert adjectives to nouns by adding ist (e.g., active: activist).
Replace occupational terms containing man and boy, if possible, with terms that include members of either gender.
Avoid occupational designations having derogatory -ette and -ess endings.
Traditionally Exclusive Domains: Sports and Home Life
Be especially mindful of using gender-free terms in writing or talking about traditionally male or female activities.
Let language usage reflect the fact that both men and women are involved with sports and home life. Examples:
fair play, team play, sporting attitude
crew, crew members
homemaker, house spouse, parent, caregiver(or shopper, customer, etc.)
Names and Titles
When Mr. is used, Ms, is the equivalent. Use Ms. to designate both a married and unmarried woman. A woman should be referred to by name in the same way that a man is. Both should be called by their full names, by first or last name only, or by title.
Miss Lee, Ms. Chai and Mrs. FeeneyMs. Lee, Ms. Chai and Ms. Feeney or Lee, Chai and Feeney
Governor Burns and Ana Kahanamoku Governor Burns and Representative Kahanamoku
Forms for using a woman's name before marriage should be gender-neutral.
Issue invitations or notices, bills, financial statements, etc. in the name of each of the individuals concerned.
Mr. and Mrs. Tanaka Ellen and John Tanaka (if both names are known) Ellen Tanaka and spouse (if the name of spouse is not known)
Salutations in Letters
If the name of the addressee is unknown, start the letter immediately without a saluation. Alternatively, especially in letters of recommendation or memos not addressed to a specific person, start with "To Whom It May Concern."
Dear Sir/Madam/Gentlemen:Aloha: (Use only in Hawaii.)Dear Customer/Colleague/Subscriber:Dear Editor/Manager/Account Executive/(other job title):Dear Representative/Senator/Delegate/(other elected or honorary title):Dear Friend(s):
Avoid the pronoun he when both sexes are included. Alternative approaches are:
Recast into the plural. Give each student his paper as soon as he is finished. Give students their papers as soon as they are finished.
Reword to eliminate the pronoun. The average student is worried about his grades. The average student is worried about grades.
Replace the masculine pronoun with one, you, or (sparingly) he or she as appropriate. If the student is dissatisfied with his grade, he can appeal to the instructor. A student who is dissatisfied with her or his grade can appeal to the instructor.
Alternate male and female expressions, when appropriate.
Use a plural indefinite pronoun. Anyone who wants to go to the game should bring his money tomorrow. All those who want to go to the game should bring their money tomorrow.
Use the double-pronoun construction, when necessary. Everyone has a right to his opinion. Every person has a right to his or her opinion.
Use he/she, his/her, etc. in printed contracts and other forms so the inapplicable pronoun can be crossed out.
More Do's and Don'ts
The following assumptions are obsolete and should be avoided:
That only men hold influential jobs. Congressional representatives urged the President to find the right man for the job. Congressional representatives urged the President to find the right person for the job.
That children are cared for by their mothers only. Mothers should note that a nutritious breakfast is more important for a child than it is for an adult. A nutritious breakfast is more important for a child than...
That men head all families and are the major wage earners.. The average worker with a wife and two children pays 30% of its income to taxes. An average family of four pays 30% of its income... An average worker with three dependents pays 30% of income...
That certain professions are reserved for one sex. Sometimes a nurse must use her common sense. Sometimes nurses must use common sense.
That women perform all work related to homemaking. The family grocery shopper wants to get all her shopping done in one stop. The family grocery shopper wants to get all the shopping done in one stop.
That women are possessions of men and are not responsible for their actions. Henry Lee allows his wife to work part time. Odette Lee works part time.
Describe the appearance of a woman only in circumstances in which you would describe the appearance of a man. The attractive well-dressed interior minister fielded questions from reporters. The interior minister fielded questions...
Do not report the marital status of a woman or a man, unless marital status is the subject of the story. Divorcee Judy Petty lost her bid to unseat Representative Wilbur Mills.. Candidate Judy Petty lost her bid...
An employed person should be identified by his or her occupation, when relevant. Do not use the terms "homemaker" or "mother" unless his or her homemaking role and family relationship, respectively, are the subject of discourse. Mrs. Marion Chong, wife of Dr. Allan Chong, gave a report on recent zoning variances. Marion Chong (and her title, if she has one) gave a report on...
Use title, terms and names in parallel construction, with females mentioned first sometimes to avoid stereotyping. Man and wife. Wife and husband... (or husband and wife).
Do not use the term "conflict" when reporting on or referring to "domestic violence."
Avoid stories that emphasize exceptions to stereotypes (example: John Kealoha is glad his mother-in-law is visiting); and expressions that demean women (examples: women's work, woman driver, sissy, old-maidish, spinsterish, womanish).
Avoid stories, photographs, captions, or phrases that make assumptions based on stereotypes: That the sole or primary interest of an unmarried woman is in "catching a man." That certain categories of women are shrewish or overbearing (examples: mothers-in-law, feminists). That certain categories of women are scatterbrained, incompetent, or excessively dependent upon men to manage their lives (examples: young, dizzy, pretty, or blond-haired women). That career women generally lack homemaking skills, do not have children, or are not good parents if they do have children. That men are brutish, violent, crude, harsh or insensitive. That women are fearful, squeamish, passive, dependent, weepy, frivilous, weak, shrewish, nagging, easily defeated, hysterical, scatterbrained. That only welfare women are single mothers. That men have no parenting, nurturing, or homemaking skills. That only minority males are violent or crude. That only lower class individuals are drug addicts. That certain ethnicities or races are fundamentally less capable than Caucasians; or that any race is superior to any other. That only persons with disabilities are dependent on others. That men are independent and women are dependent.
General Examples of Inclusive Language
USE, AS APPROPRIATE
average or common man
average person, ordinary people, typical worker
bachelor or bachelorette
single (or unmarried) man/woman
brotherhood (unless only men is meant)
community, amity, unity
executive, business person, manager, entrepeneur
camera operator, photographer, videographer
chair (for both sexes) or chairperson
the Chinese or Chinese
cleaning lady/woman, maid
housekeeper, housecleaner, office cleaner
clergy, minister, priest
member of Congress, representative, legislator, senator
craftsperson, artisan, crafter
drafter, drafting technicial
early man, caveman
early humans, early societies
attorney at law, lawyer
colleague, co-worker, peer
where appropriate: angler, fisher
ancestors, precursors, forebears
the founders, pioneers
girl (over 18)
woman, young woman
gal or girl Friday
assistant or secretary
personal agreement, informal contract
great men in history
great figures in history, people who made history, historical figures
person with disability
layperson, lay, laity, lay person, lay member
mail carrier, letter carrier, postal worker
to staff, to run, to operate
man and his world
world history, history of peoples, humans and their world
work hours, staff hours, hours worked, total hours
a hunt for...
humanity, human race, human beings, people, human family, humankind
artificial, hand-made, of human origin, synthetic, manufactured, crafted, machine made
ordinary person, ordinary citizen, average voter, average person
work force, human resources, labor force, human energy, personnel, workers
big or difficult (job), requiring exceptional abilities
men of science
go-between, liaison, agent
Mr. Chairman! Madam Chairwoman!
Chair! (for both sexes)
one-man band or show
soloist, performer, artist, individual, individual show
Asian, Asian-American or specify ethnicity if appropriate
primitive people, primitive humans, a primitive
repairer, repair person
right hand man
assistant, helper, second in command
rise of man
rise of the human race or humanity, rise of civilization, rise of culture
sales person, sales representative, salesclerk, seller, agent
sales personnel, sales staff, sales people/person
single (or unmarried) woman
shopkeeper, trader, merchant, entrepeneur, artisan
trades people, tradespersons
workers, typical worker
worker, laborer, employee
The primary mission of the Media Task Force of the Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women is to promote gender equity in the media. This updated [article] is primarily based on "Do's and Don'ts for Non-sexist Language" which was originally adapted from the 1985 revision of Women, Men and the Changing Language, a brochure produced by the Media Task Force. Therefore, the emphasis of the [article] -- as reflected in the many examples provided -- is on degendering the English language. The [front page] art is from the original publication and was generously provided by David Friedman. Editors for the 1988 edition include: John Defrancis, Laudra B. Eber, Gerald H. Ohta, Katsue Akiba Reynolds. The 1998 editors: Dineh Davis, Ruth Lieban, Gerald H. Ohta, Anne Sing, Hiroyuki Nagahara, Grace Tsutaoka, and Thelma McLachlan. For additional copies of this brochure, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Patti Cook, 715 South King Street, Room 311, Honolulu, HI 96813.