Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Sexism (1).

Sexism (1). Today: Generally. If you start with the pragmatic premise that you want to avoid misleading or distracting your readers, then you’ll almost certainly conclude that it’s best to avoid sexist language. Regardless of your political persuasion, that conclusion seems inevitable — if you’re a pragmatist. But does avoiding sexism mean resorting to awkward devices such as *"he/she"? Surely not, because that too would distract many readers. What you should strive for instead — if you want readers to focus on your ideas and not on the political subtext — is a style that doesn’t even hint at the issue. So unless you’re involved in a debate about sexism, you’ll probably want a style that, on the one hand, no reasonable person could call sexist and, on the other hand, never suggests that you’re contorting your language to be nonsexist. Next: The Pronoun Problem. *Invariably inferior forms. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “A language is not inherently sexist; rather those that use it have ‘sexist’ attitudes and use language to support them.” Ronald Wardhaugh, Proper English: Myths and Misunderstandings About Language 166 (1999).
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