July 1 2011

Dealing with gender

by Barbie in Grammar

Using singular pronouns in a document can be tricky. You don’t want to focus on just one gendered pronoun, such as “he,” but you also don’t want to repeatedly use that awkward “he/she’ or “he or she” construction throughout your document. So, what do you do? The easiest way to avoid gendered pronoun usage is to use plural nouns instead. Rather than writing about “the student,” write about “students.” Then, you can use the non-gender-specific pronouns “they” and “their.” You can also eliminate unnecessary gendered pronouns, such as changing “her table” to “the table.”

Of course, if you’re talking about a specific singular subject, like an author, you know what gendered pronoun to use. In cases when your subject is hypothetical or the gender is unknown, however, it’s best to stick with plural nouns and pronouns and avoid the gender issue entirely.