Re: Gender-specific language [was: Re: GNOME Documentation Style Guide]
- From: Vera Horiuchi <verahoriuchi sprintmail com>
- To: Dan Mueth <d-mueth uchicago edu>, gnome-doc-list gnome org
- Subject: Re: Gender-specific language [was: Re: GNOME Documentation Style Guide]
- Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2001 13:36:01 -0700
Dan Mueth wrote:
> This seems very reasonable. It covers most situations and we would
> not need to use "he" or "she" in a situation where the gender is not
> specified. The one piece which seems to be unspecified is what we do if
> we have a sentence where we can't switch to the plural:
> Tell your boss to install Linux on XXXXX computer.
> To remain gender-neutral, should we use "their" in this situation? While
> this has the singular/plural agreement problem, it seems to be the
> preferred way to avoid gendered language these days (aside from
> restructuring the sentence).
Hi Dan and everybody,
The above sentence should be:
Tell your boss to install Linux on his or her computer.
If you stick to second person, as any technical writer who's writing a set of
instructions should, then you will rarely encounter a situation where you
need another pronoun. Since these situations are rare, then, you can safely
use "his or her," "her or his," "she or he," or "he or she." These compound
pronouns will be rare and sparsely distributed in your writing, so they won't
sound weird or redundant.
If you do find that you must used a compound pronoun repeatedly, then you
need to re-construct the entire paragraph. If anyone finds himself or herself
(hee hee!) in such a situation, I'd gladly look over the problematic
paragraph and suggest alternative words. All in the cause of gender-neutral
Editors have not yet accepted breaking the noun/pronoun agreement rule, so
"their," while commonly used, is not correct in your example. (On the other
hand, do Linux users care?)
(Former Eazel wordsmith and tech writer from ancient times)
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