Avoid Gender Bias in Writing

Use gender-neutral terms whenever possible.

Use: people, humanity
: mankind

Use: work force, employees
: manpower

Use: to staff, to run, to operate
Not: to man

Use: begetting, creating, fostering
Not: fathering

Use: caring, nurturing
Not: mothering

Use: firefighter
Not: fireman

Use: police officer, public safety officer
Not: policeman

Use: postal carrier, postal worker
Not: postman

Use: chair
Not: chairman, chairwoman*

*Use chairman, chairwoman or chairperson only if that is the person's official job title and always if it is the person's official job title. The heads of departments at WMU are officially appointed by the Board of Trustees with the title "chair."

When possible, write in the plural.

Instead of: Each student must meet with his professor.
Write: All students must meet with their professors.
Never write: Each student must meet with their professor.

Instead of: Each alumnus was invited.
Write: All alumni were invited.
Never write: Each alumni was invited.

Write in the second person.

In most writing, it is acceptable and preferable to address readers in the second person. This creates writing that is less legalistic and which helps avoid gender-specific pronouns.

Instead of: The applicant should submit his resume by Nov. 1.
Write: Submit your resume by Nov. 1.
Never write: The applicant should submit your resume by Nov. 1.

Eliminate the third-person singular possessive.

Instead of: Each child scribbled on his pad of paper.
Write: Each child scribbled on a pad of paper.

Choose words that apply equally to men and women.

It is a reality of the English language that many words which may apply to men can equally apply to men and women. Only a woman can be an actress. Both women and men can be actors. The first definition of an actor is, “one who acts.” It is not gender specific.

Instead of: Student actors and actresses will perform "Othello."
Write: Student actors will perform "Othello."

Instead of: She is one of the today's top comediennes.
Write: She is one of the today's top comedians.

Avoid writing that is awkward for the sake of gender equity

Your goal is to avoid gender bias in your writing. In most cases, however, it is not the goal of your message to advance the cause of gender equity. Avoid writing that is legalistic or that makes gender or gender equity an unintended issue.

Avoid slash constructions.

Instead of: Each student can choose his/her major.
Write: Each student can choose his or her major.
Still better: All students can choose their majors.

Instead of: Each alumnus/alumna gets a vote.
Write: Each alumnus or alumna gets a vote.
Never write: Each alumnus/na gets a vote.