Non-discriminatory Language Guidelines
Senate policy states that the University community regards as offensive, under all circumstances, the use of written or spoken language which makes personal or irrelevant reference to race, sex, marital status, pregnancy, disability, sexual preference, transgender status, political or religious beliefs and age.
Also called gender neutral, non-gender specific or inclusive language, non-sexist language refers to language that includes women and treats women and men equally. Language changes constantly in response to our needs. Non-discriminatory language can be ensured in a variety of ways. To assist staff and students a number of suggestions and alternatives are listed below, but there will be other appropriate effective choices.
How to use non-sexist language
1. Titles of address, rank, occupation, status
As a general rule, use a first name, a neutral title or nothing. Where titles are appropriate, use parallel titles.
|Miss or Mrs||Ms to parallel Mr
(except where the woman prefers Miss or Mrs)
When listing names, use alphabetical order except where order by seniority is more important. If addressing correspondents whose name and gender are unknown, do not assume they are male.
2. Personal Pronouns
Use he, his, him, himself only when referring specifically to a male person. The use of he and she, she and he, she/he, s/he to refer to either female or male persons can be cumbersome. The following are acceptable alternatives:
(a) Rewrite the sentence in the plural.
The lecturer will display his timetable on his door.
Each student is responsible for material on loan to him.
Lecturers will display their timetables on their office doors.
Students are responsible for material they borrow.
(b) Rewrite the sentence in the passive.
|He must return it by the due date.||It must be returned by the due date.|
(c) Omit pronouns
|Anyone who wants his work evaluated||Anyone wanting work evaluated|
It is not acceptable to present material with the disclaimer that all masculine nouns and pronouns are to be taken as referring to both females and males.
3. Patronising and demeaning expressions
Avoid terms or expressions that are patronising and demeaning.
|The girls in the office...||The staff or the office assistants...|
|The ladies on the staff....||The women on the staff... (Use ladies only to parallel gentlemen.)|
|Women's libbers||Feminists or liberationists|
4. Sex role stereotyping;
Avoid sexist assumptions.
Lecturers and their wives...
|Lecturers and their partners...|
We are looking for an administrator who is his own man.
|We are looking for an administrator with a sense of independence and integrity.|
5. Gender descriptions
Avoid irrelevant, gratuitous gender descriptions.
|a woman doctor||a doctor|
|a lady editor||an editor|
|a male nurse||a nurse|
When referring to a position, a quality or an action that might apply to either sex, use a sex neutral term. Also, avoid the use of man or of composite words involving the syllable, -man, which may imply the term is exclusively male.
|air hostess||flight attendant|
|the average man / the common man||the average person / ordinary people / people in general|
|businessman||executive / business executive|
|chairman||chairperson / chair / convenor / mediator / coordinator / president|
|craftsman||artisan / craftsperson|
|founding fathers||founders / ancestors / forebears / first fleeters|
|headmaster, headmistress||principal / head|
|man of letters||writer / intellectual / scholar/ author/ cultured person|
|man of science||scientist / biologist / chemist, etc|
|(to) man||staff / operate / use / direct / work/ attend|
|man hours||hours / working hours|
|mankind||humanity / human beings / humankind / civilisation / people / human race|
|manpower||workforce / personnel / staff / workers|
|one-man (operation)||run by one person|
|spokesman||for or on behalf of / spokesperson|
|storeman||store person / store worker|
|workmanship||quality of work / work skill|
It is important to note that it is contrary to legislation to advertise a job vacancy in a way which implies that one sex only will be considered, except in special circumstances as for a dramatic performance. The use of gender-marker terms perpetuates and reinforces the outdated attitude that some women are to be considered first as female and second as persons of skill and talent.
6. Word order;
Vary the order of listing pairs of nouns and pronouns when the customary way of presenting the pairs reflects stereotyped views of status.
|men and women||women and men|
|boys and girls||girls and boys|
7. Word choice;
Avoid making sex-typed generalisations.
|Jane Andrews is an industrious and attractive student.||Jane Andrews is an industrious student.|
When describing the same characteristics in women and men, use similar terms.
|ambitious men and aggressive women||ambitious men and women -or- ambitious women and men|
|strongwilled men and obstinate women||strongwilled men and women|
Teaching and promotional material
Demonstrate the relevance of teaching material to all students by depicting the experience and interests of both women and men. Relate examples and illustrations to a broad range of life experiences, not just masculine experiences and interests. Check that teaching material, including textbooks, is consistent with these guidelines. Ensure promotional material - brochures, videos, prospectuses, etc. - features both women and men. Avoid the use of cartoons and illustrations that present stereotyped views of women and men.
Language use for minority groups
Terms describing a nationality, a race or an ethnic or other minority group are frequently controversial, but some terms are more acceptable than others. Terms acceptable to people involved, however, may vary over time and the careful editor or author must become sensitive to what the groups described prefer. For example, "Aboriginal people" should be used in preference to "Aborigines" or "Aboriginals". "Koori" is the name by which some Aboriginal people living in the Sydney area describe themselves. The term "disabled" is a term in widespread use, but "people with a disability" is preferred.
Implementation of the guidelines University publications and documents, including communications to staff and students and teaching materials, should adhere to the principles of equality. Care should also be taken in speaking, especially in formal settings such as lectures, seminars and meetings to use conventions which recognise equality.