Gender neutral language

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Gender neutral language is a term for words which do not refer to any particular gender, where gendered words might be expected, or for speaking or writing without assuming particular genders.

Gender neutral language in English

Traditional third-person singular pronouns for known people ("he/him/his/his/himself" and "she/her/her/hers/herself") are gendered male or female. There are many possible gender neutral alternatives to these, e.g. avoiding the pronouns altogether, using "they/them/their/theirs/themself" (which is often seen as being a plural or ambiguous pronoun), using "it/it/its/its/itself" (which is often seen as being only for nonhuman objects), or using neopronouns (some sets of which are created specifically to be gender neutral). Some people prefer being referred to without gendered pronouns, and they may have a preference for which set of pronouns they prefer, or they may prefer being referred to by no pronouns at all. These preferences are often linked to non-binary gender identity.

Many jobs have gendered titles, or the possibility of gendered titles. Gender neutral language here can consist of finding an alternative term for the job or making one of the existing terms neutral by applying it to people of all genders. An example of the former is how "firefighter" replaces "fireman/firewoman", and an example of the latter is how "actor" is sometimes used for women and people of other genders as well as men. Some gendered terms, like "author/authress", have multiple alternatives: "author" is now used for people of all genders, and the term "writer" means essentially the same thing but has never been gendered.

People also have titles which may go with their names, most commonly "Mr" for men and one or several of "Miss", "Ms", and "Mrs" for women. Depending on the country, people may be able to choose their title freely from those titles, or they may be required to use a particular gendered title. Some new titles have been created to be neutral in terms of gender, age, and marital status; these include "Mx", "Misc", "Per", and "Ind". Some people prefer using no title at all. In countries with a nobility, it can be harder to find or create neutral alternatives to titles like "duke/duchess", "lord/lady", "viscount/viscountess", or "king/queen".

Sometimes, people try to make language gender neutral by referring to both male and female terms, e.g. through writing "s/he" or saying "ladies and gentlemen". However, this language is not truly gender neutral because it does not include people who do not identify with "she" or "he" or being a lady or a gentleman.

Gender neutral language in other languages

Gender in language varies widely across the world. Some languages use gendered first-person pronouns; some use gendered verbs; some use gendered pronouns for everything, not just for people; and the politics surrounding gender and gender neutrality in language are different in different cultures.