Gender Neutral

by Kevin

"Not everyone cracks jokes all day long. But a light touch from time to time lowers a reader's guard and opens her to your ideas."

What about him?

Why do people write, and put him/her instead of their?

Even this article above, you said "her" which offends me, as I was reading it relating it to me, and I'm not a her. You could have said;

"lowers a reader's guard and opens them to your ideas."

Keep your writing as gender free as possible.
Him/Her = their/them/they

Writing should be about ideas, not what's between someones legs. (unless the writing is directly and specifically about a certain person)

Comments for Gender Neutral

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Nov 07, 2010
Gender Writing Decisions
by: Audrey

Hello Kevin,

When I write hard copy, I usually use (s)he and her/him (or him/her). Reading from a screen is still harder for the reader and using difficult constructions puts unnecessary hurdles in front of a reader. For that reason, I normally use only one pronoun at a time on my Web site.

I do not use them and their for singular usage because it is not grammatically correct. That usage is becoming more common, but it is still not universally accepted. My usage on this site reflects my somewhat conservative approach to writing and editing. People who conisder hiring me can tell something about me by the way I write.

The fact that you were offended by my use of her shows that there are issues around gender that are not resolved in our society. I was a late adopter of using her in place of him at times as one way to change our perceptions of what is acceptable. Until I was a young adult, women always read English texts that used him and were told we had no right to be offended because we should just assume we were included.

Over time, I came to recognize the power of those pronouns, just as you have. In your case, you have felt offense. None was intended.

If you look carefully at my site, you will see a balance of use between he and she and between him and her. This is my way of saying we are all equal without messing with grammar.

The English language may settle this issue in my lifetime, but I'm not holding my breath. Right now, there are still some who will always use the masculine form. There are others who use one of the methods I use: using both masculine and feminine with parentheses or a slash, or alternating uses between feminine and masculine. Still others switch to plural pronouns in order to avoid the gender issue altogether. Some go to great lengths to avoid speaking of individuals at all so they never have to make a choice. (This last choice makes the writing more distant, which is why I seldom use it.)

You can buy style guides that support all stances. You can also read arguments in favor of a third gender like some other languages have, although I don't know of a language where the third gender completely avoids the problem.

I agree that writing should not be about what is between someone's legs. If you look at what I wrote, the focus is in no way sexual. The focus is on how to write humor. Along the way, my choice of pronoun hints at the idea that at least some of the readers will be women, a fact all too often forgotten.

For every male who is offended by the use of her, there are many women who feel a small thrill of acceptance.

I hope this explains why I do what I do. I agree with you that writing should not be all about gender unless that is the topic. One way to be sure I do not tip the scales in one direction or break the grammar rules, is to use a balance of him and her on my Web site.

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