Avoiding Sexism in Your Writing

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What is sexism in writing? It is the assumption that people are all male or all female. Men are choosing professions that were once considered for women only, and women are branching out into professions that at one time were male-dominated. Sexism in writing can occur in several ways. In writing, using pronouns that refer to men only ignores half the population and sends the message that all humans are male.

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There are ways to avoid using male pronouns that refer to both men and women in your writing and to avoid alienating 50% of the population.

Here is a list of indefinite pronouns that are considered singular:

? Another, anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, little, much, neither, nobody, none, no one, nothing, one, other, somebody, someone, something

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Here are a few indefinite pronouns that can be considered singular or plural, depending on how they are used in the sentence.

? All, any, more, most, and some are plural when referring to plural nouns; all, any, more, most, and some are singular when referring to singular nouns or collective nouns.

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To avoid sexism in your writing, follow these basic tips:

? Use singular pronouns to refer to singular nouns;
? Use singular pronouns to refer to singular indefinite pronouns;
? Use plural pronouns to refer to plural nouns;

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Correct: If a student wants to take the class, he or she can register tomorrow.
Incorrect: If a student wants to take the class, they can register tomorrow.

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Correct: If anyone wants to take the class, he or she can register tomorrow.
Incorrect: If anyone wants to take the class, he can register tomorrow.

Correct: If students want to take the class, they can register tomorrow.
Incorrect: If students want to take the class, he or she can register tomorrow.

If you do not know whether the person referred to is female or male, follow these basic tips:

? Use “he or she” or “his or her”;
? Make the sentence plural by using plural nouns and pronouns;
? Rewrite the sentence to avoid using pronouns altogether;

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Correct: Everyone wanted to know his or her grades.
Incorrect: Everyone wanted to know their grades.

Correct: The students wanted to know their grades.
Incorrect: The students wanted to know his or her grades.

Correct: The students wanted to know the grades.
Incorrect: The students wanted to know his or her grades.

If you do know the gender of the person being referred to, follow these basic tips:

? Use “she or her” to refer to a female;
? Use “he or him or his” to refer to a male;

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Correct: The postman left his mailbag on my front doorsteps.
Incorrect: The postman left her mailbag on my front doorsteps.

Correct: Ask the policewoman if she can direct you to the courthouse.
Incorrect: Ask the policewoman if he can direct you to the courthouse.

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Using these simple tips will help improve your writing and keep your communication clear. You won’t go wrong, and you won’t alienate half the population by using sexism in your writing.

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Katrina Parker Williams is an English Instructor who teaches English Composition and Grammar at a community college. She is also the author of a fictional novel Liquor House Music and publishes writing and publishing articles online. Visit Katrina’s website at http://www.stepartdesigns.com for more writing and publishing tips.

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