SPECIAL EDITION

UWF WRITING LAB

 

Using Politically Correct (PC)
And Non-sexist Language

By Mamie Webb Hixon, Writing Lab Director

1.   Avoid gender-biased pronouns. With generic  
      antecedents such as person or student, use his or 
      her and he or she: A student should make good 
      grades if he or she studies hard.
2.
   Avoid using trendy "pronouns" such as s/he,  
      he(she), s[he], s/his,
or (s)he.
3.  
Use the phrases his or her and he or she sparingly 
      to risk writing sentences such as If any employee 
      needs his or her decal, he or she must bring his 
      or her receipt with him or her.
4.   If necessary,
recast the sentence by changing the 
      singular antecedent to a plural.
      A student should make good grades if he or she 
      studies hard.
      Students should make good grades if they study 
      hard.
5.
   Alternate between the singular masculine and 
      feminine pronouns if the result is not confusing or 
      cumbersome.
      The American worker is the most productive 
      person in the whole world: he's a taxpayer, and 
      she's also a consumer.
6.  
Replace masculine or feminine pronouns with one or 
      you, when appropriate: You should make good 
      grades if you study hard.
7.  
Substitute other words for "man" words.
     Sexist Usage    PC Usage
     businessman/woman business associate/person
     mankind  people, human beings, humanity
     mailman  mail carrier
     chairman   chair or chairperson
     salesman  sales associate
     fireman  fire fighter
     policeman  police officer

      Use moderation, however, to avoid usage such as  
      these:
      Person the lifeboats
      Personhole cover
8.  
Substitute gender-neutral words for gender-biased   
      words.
     Sexist Usage  PC Usage
     stewardess   flight attendant
     waiter/waitress  server
     actor/actress   actor

9.   Include both male and female reference points.
     Sexist Usage  PC Usage
     You and your spouse  You and your guest
     Dear Sir/Dear Sirs  
     (for an all-male  
     organization only)
Dear Sir or Madam or Dear Madam or Sir
     employees and wives employees and guests/    companions/ partners      
     Naval Officers' Wives  
     Club
Naval Officers' Spouses Club

10. Use women and men instead of girls and boys or 
      gals and guys when referring to adults.

 

 


"Stay tuned to the current terminology by which racial and ethnic groups refer to themselves. Usage changes (e.g., from ["black"] to "African-American" and "Oriental" to "Asian)." National newspapers and television news are good indicators of current usage. Also, ask people what term they prefer."

-- Florida Atlantic University flyer
on "Bias-Free Communications"

 

The Trouble with Articles
(Helpful Hints for Speakers of English as a
Second Language)
By Helen Richards

     Have you ever been reading a sentence and all of the sudden, WHAM!, you run smack into a noun? Those pesky nouns have always been a problem, but now the grammar police have come up with an advanced warning system. It's known as an article, and it lets you know that a noun is approaching. Just watch how it works:
Sentence without article Did you take candy?
Sentence with article  Did you take the candy?

Notice in the first sentence that the verb take ran smack into the noun candy. However, the article in the second sentence signaled that a noun was approaching, and a collision of words was avoided.
     Because all nouns are not created equal, two types of articles are available for use: the definite article and the indefinite article. "What's the difference?" you ask. The definite article is the word the. It knows without a doubt what noun is approaching; thus, it is definite. The indefinite articles, the words a and an, really don't care what noun is approaching, so the articles don't bother to check. That's why a and an are called indefinite articles; they didn't bother to look, so they are unsure or indefinite. Note the difference in the two types of articles:

Did you take the cookie?
This is a definite article in action. Notice it wasn't just any cookie. It was the cookie.
Did you take a cookie?
This is an indefinite article. Notice how it didn't tell you which one. It didn't care which cookie, just a cookie.

     The trouble with articles is that uncountable nouns are particularly menacing and frighten away indefinite articles. That is why you will never find an indefinite article preceding an uncountable noun. On the other hand, definite articles are not easily intimidated and can be used with countable nouns. Here are a few examples of the uncountable nouns and how definite articles, not indefinite, will warn the approach:
The air is polluted but not  An air is polluted.
The sand is hot but not  A sand is hot.
I live in the South  but not  I live in a South.

     So the next time you are reading a sentence, look for those articles because they are there to warn you that a noun is approaching.

 

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