Avoiding Gender Bias in Writing


Until fairly recently, many texts made use of the masculine he or him to refer to individuals in certain professions or subject positions. This tendency has, in some cases, carried over into student writing. Furthermore, given the fact that our work is not made up exclusively of males, avoiding gender bias in one's academic work is very important.
Here is an example of a gender-biased sentence:

When a student does not plan ahead effectively, he may face problems with time management that will be reflected in his academic work.

This sentence incorrectly assumes that all hypothetical students are male. This is obviously no longer the case.

Fortunately, there are a number of techniques that writers can use to remedy this problem:


1. Use plural form

When students do not plan ahead effectively, they may face problems with time management that will be reflected in their academic work.

This sentence does not assume that all students are male or female.


2. Get rid of the gendered pronoun

A student who does not plan ahead effectively may face problems with time management which will then be reflected in the student's academic work.

This form can sound "clunky" in some contexts, but it avoids the issue of gender bias.


3. Use both HE and SHE by replacing a gendered pronoun with HE or SHE

When a student does not plan ahead effectively, he or she may face problems with time management that will be reflected in his or her academic work.

Like option two, this option may be clunky or wordy in certain contexts; use it with caution! This option works best with shorter sentences where the pronouns will not be repeated.


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