Tyndale Seminary Policy on Gender Inclusive Language

(April, 2002)

As Christians we seek to communicate clearly and faithfully. In particular, we need to exercise care and precision as it relates to gender. The motivation behind the use of gender inclusive language is clarity of communication and the avoidance of terms that are or could be perceived as exclusive or pejorative. This approach is not only relevant to questions of gender, but to all individuals and groups.

The decision at Tyndale Seminary to use gender inclusive language carries with it the responsibility to be creative in writing without compromising religious faith or grammatical accuracy. The following examples and guidelines will help us implement this commitment.

Sources used for this section include Fuller Theological Seminary, Policies Governing and Suggestions Concerning the Use of Nondiscriminatory Language (Pasadena, CA: FTS, 1990), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Handbook for Participants in the Doctoral Program (Deerfield, IL: TEDS, 1993), and Frederick Crews, The Random House Handbook, 6th ed. (New York: Random House, 1992). See also the Guidelines for Non-Sexist Use of Language by the University of New Hampshire

1. Nouns

Many nouns imply gender when the intent of the communicator is to refer to a group or position which includes males and females. Following are a few suggestions of inclusive language alternatives to some traditional terminology. 

  • Instead of brethren or brothers (for a mixed group) use brothers and sisters.
  • Instead of chairman use chair, head, moderator, leader.
  • Instead of clergyman/men use clergy, member of the clergy, minister, elder, pastor, or clergywomen and men.
  • Instead of deaconess/waitress/actress use deacon/waiter/actor (The latter are all neutral gender terms that can be used for either males or females.)
  • Instead of forefathers use ancestors or forebears.
  • Instead of housewife use homemakers.
  • Instead of husband/wife use spouse.
    Instead of man (meaning person) use human, individual, person, the public.
  • Instead of man-made use artificial.
  • Instead of man (as a verb) use operate, work, staff, or serve (at/in/on).
  • Instead of mankind use humanity, people, or society.
  • Instead of workman use worker.

Note: fellow and its derivatives - fellowship, fellow worker, etc. - are considered to be non-gender specific.

2. Pronouns

The English language lacks an inclusive-third-person singular pronoun that signifies either male or female (except for "one"). Following are some suggestions for using gender inclusive pronouns.

In General:

  • Consider the context and the intent - if a specific gender is intended, use the appropriate pronoun.
  • Keep the use of inclusive language simple, avoiding wordiness as far as possible.
  • Avoid the use of slashes, dashes, and parenthetical gender references [he/she; s/he; (s)he].
  • Limit the use of parallelism [e.g. he and she; her or his]
  • Avoid alternating gender references within the same paragraph [e.g. He is required to pre-register. She then must complete registration on the first day].
  • Write in the plural whenever you can.

Read the following sentences, noticing how gender specific language has been changed to inclusive language:

She is required to submit an application.

The student is required to submit an application.

 

He who hesitates is lost.

Anyone who hesitates is lost.

 

What a lay person expects after he joins the church …

What a lay person expects after joining the church …

 

He should never say, "It`s over" till it`s over.

One should never say, "It`s over" till it`s over.

 

Every student has his own identification number.

All students have their own identification numbers.

 

Let each man consider his own frailties.

Let each one of us consider our own frailties.

 

Men are made in the image of God.

We are made in the image of God.

 

The average pastor reads his Bible daily.

The average pastor reads the Bible daily.

 

An athlete should eat his dinner well before a game.

An athlete should eat dinner well before a game.

3. Gender-specific Language in Quotations

You may wish to indicate your awareness of the lack of gender inclusive language in a quotation. This may be signaled by the use of [sic] to indicate an error or oddity in the original.

[In Of This and Other Worlds, C. S. Lewis states that "When we learn from the sciences the probable nature of places or conditions which no human being experienced, there is in normal men [sic], an impulse to attempt to imagine them"(85).]

It should be noted, however that a document with [sic] all the way through would be tedious and pedantic. Thus, as an alternative you may wish to indicate the non-inclusive language the first time with [sic] and include a footnote reference with your own qualifier that you are aware of the gender specific language, but you will be using inclusive language yourself.