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Monday, February 16, 2015

Week 7 Genders In Writing

Recognize Both Genders In Your Writing
by Tamara

Sometimes I have moments when I think, "Where have I been all my life?" 
Reading this chapter, I had such a moment when Mr. Wilbers quotes from The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing (C. Miller & K. Swift).  
There is a handbook for this? 
Shouldn't we back up the train with something like The Handbook of Nonsexist Thinking? 
But that is probably a topic for a different day. (I have no interest in adding any more fuel to the ongoing gender war.)

To sum up: It is clear we need more gender-sensitive language in our writing. The problem, as Mr. Wilbers points out, is "trying to find the most natural, least contrived ways to write inclusively."1

And this is where my head starts to swim. I admit I am not a grammar guru. I've read this chapter three times, and some parts out loud, to better understand  the 'mixing of singular and plural references with indefinite pronouns.' 

And I am still grappling with the news flash that "English has no third-person singular personal pronoun that is inclusive of both genders."2 Look, English is my first love, It's hard not to take it personal when someone points out a flaw. 

Enough about me.
If you need some suggestions on how to be inclusive or at least gender neutral in your writing, try these:

1. Use plural pronouns.2. Eliminate the masculine pronoun.3. Replace the masculine pronoun with an article (a, an, or the.)4. Use genderless words such as person and individual.5. Use the second person.6. Use the "singular they and their" with indefinite words and pronouns such as every, any, everyone, and anybody.*7. Use he or she. 3 (*see head swimming not above)

There are explanations for these as well as examples and exercises for each in the book. Here is just one sample: 
"A skydiver is responsible for folding his own parachute." Change to: "Skydivers are responsible for folding their own parachutes." 4

There you have it. Including the masculine and feminine in writing. Until the day when English has a third-person singular personal pronoun that includes both genders--be creative, be brave.

1. p. 39, Mastering the Craft
2. p. 40, Mastering the Craft
3. p. 39-40 Mastering the Craft
4. p. 42 Mastering the Craft

PEGGY: One of the wonderful things about writing is that I am continually learning things about the English language. As language morphs and develops, I wonder if we will see plural pronouns replacing singular gender-specific pronouns as grammatically acceptable. According to Grammar Girl, most do. I have to work to make sure that I don't use a plural pronoun when a singular antecedent. The Chicago Manual of Style recommends avoiding sentences that combine plural nouns with singular antecedents (and Mr. Wilbers has shown several ways to do that). Fun post.

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