An easy way to avoid sexism in your writing

If you’ve ever felt guilty about being forced to choose between using either a male or a female example in your writing, here’s an easy way to avoid it which should work in a large number of cases. Avoid sexism by using plurals wherever possible.

So, instead of saying, for example, ‘A doctor should consult his patient at this point’, which seems to be assuming that all doctors are male, use ‘Doctors should consult their patients at this point.’

It won’t work all the time, and sometimes you have to rephrase or reorder your sentence to make it work. But where it will work, it means you can avoid the slightly laborious ‘he or she’ or ‘his or her’, or the awkward (and not universally liked) ‘s/he’. It also gets around the increasing use of the words ‘they’ or ‘their’, where you’re talking about an individual, as in ‘A doctor should consult their patient at this point’. The aim is to be as inclusive as possible, and thus avoid causing offence.

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About Stephen Wellings

I am a publishing and training professional with over 30 years' editorial and senior management experience in companies such as McGraw-Hill, Pan Books, International Thomson, The Open College, Butterworth-Heinemann and Pergamon Open Learning. During my career I have commissioned and published hundreds of books and learning materials in science, technology, social science, business and management. I have designed, developed and published major distance learning programmes, including one of the world’s largest for ACCA, the professional accounting body. I am accomplished at delivering sizeable publishing and training projects on time, within budget and to exacting quality standards. In my spare time I promote live modern jazz in the Thames Valley, under the Jazz in Reading brand. I am also Co-chair of Reading Borough Council's Learning Disabilities Partnership Board.
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