A mini guide
(Adapted from: Name It. Change It. The Women’s Media Center’s Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians, WMC UNESCO Guidelines for Gender-Fair Use of Language, UNESCO ‘Glossary of Terms’ in Unspinning the Spin: The Women’s Media Center Guide to Fair and Accurate Language, WMC)
DO NOT USE LANGUAGE THAT EXCLUDES WOMEN
Use inclusive language. Make sure that your language includes all genders, sexualities and identities:
- Make general references neutral: Don’t use the word man to refer to both women and men. e.g. use humankind instead of mankind or artificial instead of man made.
- Use collective pronouns: Avoid using gendered pronouns when referring to both women and men. E.g. each farmer was given his subsidy by the government. Instead use collective or neutral pronouns: such as ‘they’, ‘their’, ‘one’, ‘you’, ‘your’, etc. You may need to reword your sentences to do this.
- If you are quoting a source, ask what their preferred pronoun is.
- Replace language that makes assumptions about roles or relationships: E.g. employees’ wives – there are several assumptions here: only men work, all employees are in a couple and all employees are in a heterosexual couple.
DO NOT USE LANGUAGE THAT LIMITS EITHER SEX
- Avoid highlighting gender as a defining characteristic. When describing a person’s achievements, goals and situation, most of the time his or her gender is not relevant.
- Avoid using clichés that perpetuate stereotypes: Such as ‘just like a man’, ‘man up’ or ‘drama queen’.
AVOID JOB TITLES THAT PERPETUATE STEREOTYPES (AND EXCLUDE WOMEN)
- Make job titles neutral: E.g. police officer rather than policeman, chairperson rather than chairman, etc. Also use actor instead of actress or waiter instead of waitress.
- Don’t add gender labels to job titles: A woman who is a lawyer is a ‘lawyer’ not a ‘lady lawyer’. Similarly, a nurse who is a man is a ‘nurse’ not a ‘male nurse’. These labels reinforce the stereotype of specific jobs or roles being reserved for only men or women.