Politically correct English

As we progress in the 21st century, more and more everyday English terms are considered offensive. Although there are many categories in which words have been changed such as racial and ethnic groups, age, ilness and disabilities, and sexual preferences, among others, it is in gender that these changes are more noticeable:

Gender is an area in which it is most difficult to avoid giving offence. This is partly because of the way the English language works.

The word man originally meant both adult human and adult male. But nowadays its meaning is so closely identified with adult male that in sentences like ‘Man has always dreamed of being able to fly’ it does not seem to include women. When referring to adult humans, you can avoid offending anyone by using terms like people or human beings instead of man:

People have always dreamed of being able to fly.

Many older words for occupations seem to exclude women because they include the word man. Avoid using man in words for jobs that can be held by either a man or a woman. Use neutral words that include both sexes. For example, instead of businessman use a word like executive or businessperson, and instead of fireman use firefighter.

Avoid using words like manageress, actress and other words ending in –ess to refer to women. Words like these are considered old-fashioned, and are offensive to some people. Use words like manager and actor that can refer to both men and women.

Because English has no singular common-sex pronoun, speakers of English have traditionally used the pronouns he, his and him in expressions like ‘Each student brought his own dictionary’. Here are some ways you can avoid using masculine pronouns to refer to groups that are made up of both men and women.

-1. Use the plural form for both nouns and pronouns:

All he students brought their own dictionaries.

-2 Reword the statement to avoid using a pronoun:

Each student brought a dictionary.

-3. Use the phrase his or her.

Each student brought his or her own dictionary.

-4. Use s/he:  Each student brought the dictionary that s/he preferred.

-5. Use the plural pronoun their after an indefinite pronoun.

Everyone brought their own dictionary.




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