March 29 2010

Using gendered pronouns

by Barbie in Writing

Using gendered pronouns like “him” or “her” in your writing can be a tricky subject. Most style guides have specific rules for the use of gendered pronouns; for example, APA advises against using gendered pronouns in your writing. Company- or project-specific standards might conflict with more traditional style guides, so writers often struggle with assigning pronouns to singular subjects when the gender of the subject is unknown.

Follow APA’s guidance, and avoid using gendered pronouns with these tips.

Make the subject plural.

Writers often avoid this tricky subject by using the plural pronoun “they.” Often, this is incorrect because the subject remains singular, and this revision creates pronoun disagreement. However, if you also make the subject plural, using the plural pronoun “they” is the easiest way to avoid using gendered pronouns.

Omit the pronoun.

Instead of using “him” or “her,” use a gender-neutral noun. Identifying the subject as “an individual” or “person” is gender neutral and preferable to “him” or “her.”

Revise your sentence.

If you’re stuck and can’t find a gender-neutral noun that works, then restructure your sentence to avoid the use of the pronoun.