You might not think a lot about the pronouns you use when creating blog posts, but that’s a mistake. Using gender-inclusive pronouns when writing in the third-person is important. Also called gender-neutral pronouns, these pronouns help ensure that your content includes every possible person in your target market.
Traditional third-person singular pronouns are: he, she, it, his, hers, him, her. They, them, and their are the third person plural pronouns. Some styles of writing allow for using plural pronouns as gender-neutral singular pronouns, but it can leave readers feeling a little awkward for breaking subject-object agreement rules. There are also the gender-neutral pronouns ze, hir, hirs as well as ey, em, eir. Since these are used infrequently they can also leave the audience feeling confused if they aren’t aware of their meaning.
No matter which set of gender-neutral pronouns you embrace, when it comes to gender inclusivity and gender neutrality, there are some key practices to follow.
Be sure you are using someone’s preferred pronoun when writing about someone specific.
When writing about a specific person, use that person’s preferred pronoun. If you are unsure which pronoun a person prefers, ask. It’s better to be certain that you’re using the preferred pronoun than it is to guess and be wrong.
Know your target market
I know I come back to this a lot when doling out content marketing advice, but there is no substitute for studying the preferences of your target market. It would make no sense to use ze/hir/hirs or ey/em/eir when talking to a group of Baby Boomers about financial advice. It would, however, make sense to use the pronouns if your target market is made up of progressive millennials or those likely to self-identify as part of the LGBTQA+ community.
Be careful with gendered noun usage
When a non-specific person is referred to, use person or individual as opposed to man. Rather than mankind, use people, human beings, or humanity. Whenever there is a job, do not modify the job title unless there is a reason to. For example, do not write male librarian or female construction worker unless you are specifically talking about a case where gender is relevant.
Cases where one might use both he/she or his/her
There are some cases where one might use he or she or him or her in writing. This is fine to do so long as it doesn’t become repetitive. In long passages of text, reading he or she or his/hers over and over again can become trite, and it can make for unclear writing.
Sometimes writers will alternate pronouns where the gender of the individual doesn’t matter. For example, one sentence will say she and the next sentence will say he. While this method of maintaining gender-neutrality can avoid the awkwardness of he/she and him or her, it can be cumbersome to remember where one left off in the trade-off.
When gender is unclear
If you do not know someone’s gender or preferred gender, there are a few strategies to keep language gender-neutral and inclusive. One way to refer to the individual is by the person’s username or a descriptive word or phrase. Another way is to do some research to see how others have referred to the individual. This is particularly helpful if the individual is, indeed, a public figure.
Making it automatic
By practicing using gender-neutral and gender-inclusive language, it will become automatic when you write. It’s important to become competent at using non-sexist language so that you can create content that appeals to the largest audience possible.
Need help with your content? EVG can help you connect with your ideal audience. Reach out to us today to find out how we can work to meet your content needs.
Ronda Bown – Content Creator