Even the most conscientious writer has difficulties avoiding gender bias. As I discussed in my last post, problems arise when referring to someone whose gender is unknown. Without a singular gender-neutral pronoun, there are two choices: he or she. The traditional—and sexist—approach is to use masculine pronouns by default. This practice is dying out, but what is taught instead? Stylistic clunkers like alternating he and she or using slashed constructions (he/she and s/he).
Thankfully, there are better alternatives. I’ve compiled a list of tips for avoiding gender bias without sacrificing style.
1. Omit the gender-specific pronoun.
This is the ideal solution; it not only precludes the need for rewriting, but also eliminates excess words.
Everyone wants his fifteen minutes of fame.×
Everyone wants fifteen minutes of fame.√
A doctor wants his patients to be healthy.×
A doctor wants patients to be healthy.√