How, and Why, to Avoid Sexist Language in Your Writing

from mila 

We no longer live in a male dominated world. We haven’t for quite some time really. We’ve moved beyond seeking politically correct language and we just have all encompassing words now.

For example, for some time the term “Stewardess” was considered inappropriate and the word flight attendant replaced it. It took some time and a change of thought and culture, but now the term flight attendant feels appropriate and common enough that we likely rarely think about it.

There are other words that have been replaced in our society. A waitress or waiter has become a server. Actress has become actor, chairman has become chairperson, fireman – firefighter, weatherman – meteorologist, mailman – postal delivery person, and mankind has become humanity and so on.

When writing marketing copy of any kind, it is helpful to remember to write not only for your audience but to make sure you don’t offend your audience. Imagine reading a sales page for a book you’re interested in and every single word is masculine. “He said, he did, his, him, etc… Maybe you wouldn’t notice it consciously but subconsciously it very well may turn you completely off of the product. It is very easy, too easy, to slip into the masculine form and use the word “he” often without intending to offend or direct your copy toward a male reader.

Here are a few tips to help avoid sexist language in your copy.

1. After you’ve written your copy scan it for potentially sexist terms like mankind and replace them with a non-sexist synonym.

2. Scan your copy for “he” or “she” and rewrite the sentences to avoid reference to a gender. For example, instead of “the expert hosted a teleconference for his top buyers.” You could write “The expert invited top buyers to attend a teleconference.”

3. Use plurals instead of a male or female pronoun. For example, “The top seller receives an incentive for his profits.” Replace it with “The top sellers receive incentives for their profits.”

As you can see, it often takes a bit of simple creative restructuring to eliminate any potentially offensive or sexist language in your copy. What I often find is the best approach is to write the copy first and then do a global search to find any gender specific pronouns.

To eliminate those pesky sexist terms like “mailman,” it’s probably easiest to do a quick read through. In the end, your copy will read better and you won’t run the risk of unintentionally offending a prospective customer.

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