A widely-used online writing and grammar guide operated by Purdue University has been updated to advise college students against using stereotyped language and words with masculine markers as they can offend certain groups.
The recommendations, made in the “Stereotypes and Biased Language” section of the guide, says by removing stereotypes, biases and sexism, the student’s work will be both “ethically sound” as well as effective.
“Non-sexist writing is necessary for most audiences; if you write in a sexist manner and alienate much of your audience from your discussion, your writing will be much less effective,” it points out.
Citing pointers by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the guide says the use of “man” in generic words like “mankind”, for example, can be avoided.
What words does it suggest instead?
Alternatives for “mankind”, could be “humanity, people or human beings”, the guide says.
Other generic words containing “man” can also be substituted with non-sexist alternatives. “Man-made”, for example, could be replaced with “synthetic, manufactured, machine-made”; “the common man” replaced with “the average person, ordinary people”; “man the stockroom” replaced with “staff the stockroom”; and “man hours” changed to “staff hours”.
This, the guide explains, is because although the word “man” in its original sense means both the adult human and the adult male, this has developed over time to become more closely identified with the adult male.
And the list doesn’t end there.
The guidelines also suggest “man” should be left out of words describing occupations including “mailman” (which should become “mail carrier”) and “congressman” (which should become “congressional representative”).
“Historically, some jobs have been dominated by one gender or the other,” the guide states, citing doctors as an example.
“This has lead to the tendency for a person of the opposite gender to be ‘marked’ by adding a reference to gender. You should avoid marking the gender in this fashion in your writing.”
So, a female doctor should simply be referred to as a “doctor” and not a “woman doctor,” the guide advises.
Campus Reform, which first reported changes to the writing guide, says it has reached out to its director for comment.
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