How to Avoid Gender Discrimination: Some Guidelines

How to Avoid Gender Discrimination: Some Guidelines

Gender discrimination is a widely disputed topic. Should you show respect to one gender or the other in particular in your writing? Do you feel bad that you are giving only one gender importance? Then please read this article.

Now, people avoid gender in writing in three ways. First, they use ‘he/she’, ‘him/her’, etc. This kind of writing actually gives you a terrible reading experience, as in:

He/she should describe him/her very well.
I should have avoided him/her, whoever he/she was.

Such sentences are a pain to read, if in great numbers.

Secondly, many writers blindly go to pluralism to avoid this. They usually rewrite their singular sentences to plural form to reach generality.

If a policeman has to capture a criminal, he has to act intelligently.
This sentence is rewritten as: Policemen should be intelligent enough to capture criminals.

Thirdly, some writers blindly adopt ‘he’ for every need. They just write normally, without any care for the feminine gender.

A doctor should try to save a patient, whoever he is, and however busy he (the doctor) maybe.

What Works the Best

If you ask me, ‘he/she’ gimmick is very uninviting. Though I used to follow it in some of my first articles, now I believe it just makes reading unnecessarily cumbersome.

The second style above is good up to some extent. It looks natural to both genders, and women don’t much care if she finds only ‘he’ in every sentence. However, there are women, who may oppose. Also, the following sentence doesn’t look so natural to me:

A nurse, his hand broken, should help a patient nonetheless.

The problem with this sentence is that women dominate the nursing profession more than men do. So, do you expect to see ‘her’ than ‘his’ in that sentence? I don’t.

Hence, my recommendation is you should write supplying the most appropriate gender word according to the context. If you feel that a particular profession is female-dominated, use ‘she’ and for other professions, use ‘he’ or ‘she’ as you wish in an equal mix. If you feel that a profession is male-dominated, use ‘he’ there (such as pilot or military personnel).

In case of human being in general, I suggest you follow ‘human beings’ or ‘humans’ instead of ‘man’.


You can describe your problem to the flight attendant and she will help you.
Major of the army, we hope, will be a great man.
Human beings catch more diseases than animals.


Showing justice to both genders is quite an art. You can learn it through consistent writing. So, when you write next time, make your own rules. Your writing style is unique and that should show your personality.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

3 Opinions:

  1. I've never come across writing like you first suggested (the he/she, him/her) and if I did, it would turn me off completely.

    I try to write gender specific when I can. Much easier and I try not to make assumptions when it comes to identifying certain professions with a particular gender.

  2. I think it is wrong to be gender neutral sometimes. Sometimes characters in fiction are just nasty toward the opposite sex. If you are writing about someone nasty, it has to come across that way.

    Gender neutrality is best for professional nonfiction writing.

  3. I've never really given the gender a thought. If my characters are male, I use he, if they are female, than she.

    Also I have seen the he/she writing and it's annoying and I have trouble keeping interest.


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