As a non-fiction writer working mostly with small and growing businesses it is crucial that the content I write reaches out to the highest number of target readers. One way of reaching a larger audience is to write gender free content devoid of gender specific or sexist words.
In most English-speaking countries such as UK, USA, Canada and Australia there is a lot of focus on gender equality in the workplace, and gender biased business communication is viewed as unacceptable. Here is an interesting 2013 news report on proposed gender neutral language changes in Washington state law ( click to view video).
Undoubtedly, as a freelance writer you need to exercise caution and ensure that your content is gender inclusive. Here are some tips on writing gender free content .
1. Instead of gender biased words such as ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘she’ and ‘he’, use gender free words such as they/ their/ them/. For example –
Gender biased statement: Each student should submit his report by end of the week.
Gender free statement: Students should submit their report by end of the week.
In fact, there are a lot of people who do not identify themselves as either a he or a she. This is why pronouns such as ‘they or their’ work the best.
2. Another way of writing gender-free is to use the phrase ‘he or she’ or ‘his or her’. For example –
Gender biased statement: Every young child should be involved in planning her birthday party.
Gender free statement: Every young child should be involved in planning his or her birthday party.
3. Alternate between using ‘he’ and ‘she’ in your content. So while in some sentences you use the pronoun ‘he’, in others use ‘she’.
4. Avoid using words that exude a gender bias. Examples of words considered ‘sexist’ are actress / mailman/stewardess/ mankind/ policewoman. Substitute these with gender-free words such actor/ mail carrier / flight attendant / people/police officer.
Gender biased statement: We welcome madam chairperson to the 5th annual meeting.
Gender free statement: We welcome our chairperson to the 5th annual meeting.
Here is an interesting video on the use of ‘gender neutral pronouns’ by Tom Scott ( a world speaker about the web and the accelerating pace of change).
Writing gender free content is today applicable to everyone, whether you are a writer, a business owner, or a corporate executive sending out an email to your employees. A small change in the way you write/ speak can increase the appeal of what you have to say. So why not try it?