Guide to Gender-Neutral Writing

It used to be that "he" was the standard pronoun of indeterminate gender. It used to be, when you didn't know to whom you were writing, you simply wrote "Dear Sir." Maybe it used to be acceptable to ignore women in business, but be assured, it is not acceptable any more. Indeed, it's actually preferable to make a minor grammatical error than to risk insulting half the population.

You don't call a female governor a governess do you? Why call an author something other than what she is?

Good business writing requires both clarity of thought and attention to detail. Today, more than ever, people may be offended by sexist words and images. Good writers look for ways to avoid using "he" as the pronoun of indeterminate gender.
  • Eliminate the pronoun.
  • Pluralize the pronoun.
  • Repeat the noun.
For example, instead of: Everyone should take his seat.

Use: Everyone should take their seats—OR—Everyone should take a seat.

The following are examples of ways you can eliminate sexual stereotyping.
  • In addressing letters, if the sex of the addressee is not known, begin your letter with "Dear" followed by the initials and surname.
  • In writing text, use parallel language when the names of a woman and man are mentioned together—so that women are portrayed as equals:
    John Doe and Linda Smith
    J. Doe and L. Smith
  • Repeat the noun.