In the past, it was considered acceptable to simply refer to a person as he or him or man. However, along with the deeper and long overdue integration of women into the workforce came more respect for women as individuals. We must show that respect in our writing.
This can be difficult because gender bias is built into some common words: mankind, salesman, waiter, etc. However, people are now using alternatives to these words that avoid gender bias: humankind, salesperson, server, etc. So, writers can incorporate these gender-neutral words into their content to avoid being offensive or inaccurate.
To maintain credibility and accuracy in your content, you should avoid using gender bias in writing. Thankfully, there are some tips for doing so without having to use he or she, him or her, he/she, s/he, etc.
Make your sentences imperative.
Using the command form of verbs allows you to use the second person (you and your) instead of the third person (he and she).
Example: You can also use the understood you and simply start your sentence with a verb.
- (You) Start your sentence with a verb.
Use plural nouns and pronouns.
Use they and their to avoid gender bias.
Example: People often use plural pronouns with their singular nouns, but that usage is incorrect:
- Incorrect: When a writer replaces a noun with a pronoun in his writing, it should be aligned in number and gender.
- Widely Accepted: When a writer replaces a noun with a pronoun in their writing, it should be aligned in number and gender.
- Always Correct: When writers replace nouns with pronouns in their writing, they should be aligned in number and gender.
Remove the pronoun.
In many cases, the pronoun is not necessary in the sentence, and it can simply be removed.
Example (gender bias): When you are explaining your side of a topic to a friend, you can send him sources to reinforce your point.
Example (without pronoun): When you are explaining your side of a topic to a friend, you can send sources to reinforce your point.
Replace the pronoun with a more generic noun.
An easy fix for gender bias is to replace the pronoun with a noun such as individual, user, participant, person, etc.
Example: When looking over the document, the reader found some errors.
Repeat the noun, especially if there is a possibility of confusion.
Oftentimes, it is effective to repeat the noun instead of using a pronoun. This is especially effective when you have more than one noun in the sentence that the pronoun could be referring to.
Example (gender bias): The editor and the writer disagreed about avoiding gender bias, but he convinced him to avoid it in the end.
Example (with repeated noun): The editor and the writer disagreed about avoiding gender bias, but the editor convinced the writer to avoid it in the end.
Replace pronouns with articles.
In some instances, you can replace the pronoun with an article (a, an, or the).
Example (gender bias): The writer takes his style guide everywhere.
Example (with article): The writer takes a style guide everywhere.
Rephrase the sentence.
Sometimes the best route is to rephrase the sentence to avoid gender bias.
Example (gender bias): It can be helpful for a writer to step away from his document for a few days before editing it because he is too close to his document.
Example (rephrased): Writers get very close to their work, so it can be helpful for them to step away from their document for a few days before editing it.
Uploaded. Edited. Done.
At ProEdit, we have a trained team of editors who are knowledgeable about how to avoid gender bias and how to make content grammatically and stylistically accurate. We offer on-demand editing services for your business, personal, and academic content. More specifically, we offer copyediting, technical editing, academic editing, and proofreading.