Posted by: Jack Henry | June 15, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Blonds and Brunets

Hello out there! I hope this finds you happy, healthy, and ready to enjoy the summer.

I like preparing for the summer by reading meaty Q&As on the Chicago Manual of Style website. Since we’ve been talking about more inclusive language at work and in the society at large, I thought this was a timely topic.

The question from the writer was about the word blond, and whether we should follow the traditional French and use blond to describe a man with blond hair, and blonde (with an “e”) for a woman with blond hair.

The article’s first advice was to stop referring to a person as their hair color. For example, “Did you hear the joke about the three blondes?” The second advice was to stop using blonde with an “e” to refer to women with golden hair.

While CMOS doesn’t actually have a rule about hair color, the AP Stylebook recommends using gender-neutral language and switching to blond for all flaxen-haired folks. Similarly, AP recommends that we use brunet for brown or dark-haired people, rather than using brunette for women and brunet for men. CMOS agreed with that logic.

One other word I thought of that we spell differently in English, depending on the person’s gender, is fiancé. A male is a fiancé with one “e,” and a female is a fiancée with two “e’s.” I suppose we can follow the logic above and use the simplest spelling for both (fiancé), or you can avoid it altogether by referring to the marrying couple as betrothed.

As you know, English is always changing. In this case, we’re simply neutralizing gendered words from France, and making them our own in a friendly, all-encompassing way.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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