Posted by: Jack Henry | May 24, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Gender-Neutral Language

It’s a lovely spring day, so I thought we’d stir up some controversy and talk about gender-neutral language: terms like police officer (rather than policeman) and mail carrier (rather than mailman). Kara has covered this topic before, but I read a good article, and I like to share.

The article I read mentions a college student who tested her instructor by using the word mankind rather than humankind after being expressly directed to use only gender-neutral terminology in her essay. The student found out how serious the instructor was when, as warned, points were deducted from her score for the use of this one word.

So why do this professor and most authorities believe that gender-neutral terminology is important? Well, for one thing, it is more accurate. Consider the term policeman. When we hear this term, most of us instinctively imagine a man in a police uniform. Many women serve on the police force, however, and the term policeman (and the image it elicits) disregards all those brave women. The exclusion is usually not intentional, but it occurs all the same.

The goal of gender-neutral language is to be inclusive. To help you achieve that goal, I’ve compiled a partial list of gender-neutral titles from the internet. (Tomorrow, we’ll talk about gender-neutral pronouns. I hope you can survive the suspense!)

Gendered Title Gender-Neutral Title
actor, actress actor
businessman, businesswoman business person/person in business, business people/people in business
chairman, chairwoman chair, chairperson
congresswoman, congressman legislator, congressional representative
delivery boy courier, messenger
fireman firefighter
foreman supervisor
freshman first-year student [dbb – I know this one is going to be a hard sell.]
insurance man insurance agent
landlady, landlord building manager, proprietor
mailman mail carrier, letter carrier
man-made synthetic, machine-made
ombudsman troubleshooter [dbb – But this one is
much more fun!]
policeman, policewoman police officer
saleslady, salesman salesperson, sales associate, salesclerk
self-mad man entrepreneur, self-made person
steward, stewardess flight attendant
the common man the average person
waiter, waitress server
mom, dad parental unit [dbb – Courtesy of my son, Luke.]

In case this topic is a little too serious, don’t think of this rule as mandatory. Think of it as persondatory.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
exclusively for the individual or entity to which it is addressed. The message,
together with any attachment, may contain confidential and/or privileged information.
Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
immediately advise the sender by reply email and delete all copies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: