Wikipedia talk:Gender-neutral language

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Good; I see no reason not to have this. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:34, 2 September 2007 (UTC)

It looks good to me. Sexist language is a huge problem on Wikipedia, and modern English needs to rely heavily on neutral wording. The sexes are equal in the modern world, so sexist language is as archaic as "ye" and "whilst". — Deckiller 21:08, 2 September 2007 (UTC)

Seems reasonably, as long as no-one starts objecting to words because of folk etymologies, like the oft-heard (off wikipedia, anyway) objection to "manhole". SamBC(talk) 22:05, 2 September 2007 (UTC)

Please write your comments at MOS talk; I've copied the text above to that place. Tony 00:59, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

"Singular they remains technically incorrect"[edit]

"At present, the singular they remains technically incorrect and many English speakers will view it as unencyclopedic, but it is a popular compromise and allowed by some style guides."

Huh? Just which technicality is it that proscribes "they" in Each politician is responsible for their constituency?

If I may recycle an example from p.494 of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (highly recommended, and a snip at just ₤125); perhaps those who demur at "singular they" would care to provide a superior alternative to their in Let me know if your father or your mother changes their mind. And which are these style guides that disallow singular they? I daresay those old codgers Strunk and White tut tut over it, but they're beyond a joke.

Listen, kids: If singular they was good enough for Jehovah, that settles the matter. (Or if you insist, here's a follow-up.) Yes, singular they is good. -- Hoary 09:48, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

If we leave it at as the single sentence people will never accept it. You like the singular they—great. Many people do not. (Note I'm not one of those people but I'm anticipating the response.) Either we don't have it at all or we have it with a caveat. Marskell 12:25, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

I removed the singular they clause yesterday, because it was generating too much opposition and was threatening to capsize the whole proposal. After hearing the ABC Radio program on it (transcript), I believe that it's not, in many cases, technically wrong. But there's too much prejudice against it on WP (despite the fact that it appears all over the place), and I suggest that it be dealt with later, after this proposal is shepherded through. Removing the singular they clause is a compromise, and compromise is going to be required to get this through. Tony 12:54, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

I had the same thought over lunch. I've removed it for the timebeing. Marskell 13:15, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

Marskell: You like the singular they—great. No I don't. (My earlier comment Yes, singular they is good. was A Joke.) I don't like it and I don't dislike it; just as I don't like or dislike singular you. I recognize it as a fact of standard English.

So it seems that my earlier message didn't get through. Right then, I'll rephrase it: the proposition that The singular they remains technically incorrect is horseshit. If you want, you can mollify WP's considerable population of adoring readers of the newspaper columns of ignorant or senile "language mavens" by omitting mention of this oh-so-shocking ingredient of standard English (as demonstrably spoken by the Supreme Being, no less). But don't expect me for one to agree to any proposed guideline that recycles such egregious ignorance of language. -- Hoary 13:36, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

I've tried putting it back with a bland statement of fact that doesn't say that it is either correct or incorrect, but acknowledges the variation in opinions - hopefully that's reasonably acceptable and no-one will remove it in a knee-jerk reaction. Hoary, you're veering heavily towards not being WP:CIVIL, I agree with your basic sentiment, but please try to keep WP:COOL. SamBC(talk) 13:38, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
WP:KETTLE. >Radiant< 13:50, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
Hoary, "technically incorrect" was simply wording I'd pulled out from the previous version of it; as I said in the summary, tweak it if you don't like it.
Beyond that, I'd to like to offer a fuck off. I have never dealt with you and I have no idea why you are posting so venomously. Marskell 13:54, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
  • Gentlemen, you two are among those I respect most at WP, and it pains me to see that there are bad feelings. We need people to collaborate on this issue, or there'll be no progress and the chance for consensus lost. Please? Tony 14:27, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
Radiant, at what point was I uncivil in this discussion, or how was my comment regarding civility in itself uncivil? This isn't a denial as much as confused but genuine question. SamBC(talk) 14:15, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
I don't think you've been uncivil, but I see a general rising of tempers around this issue and multiple people on both sides being downright nasty; so a one-sided warning is unlikely to help. >Radiant< 14:21, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
I believe it's me who's supposed to have been uncivil. Well I misphrased myself: above, I wrote "adoring readers" when I meant "doting readers" but should have said "credulous readers". And maybe I didn't do enough rewording elsewhere, either. Funny thing, though: I thought (i) the gist of WP:CIVIL was that people must act with civility toward one another, and (ii) I had been less than civil about cognitions, not editors.
Whatever. It's late here and I'm going to bed. Happy editing, all! -- Hoary 14:27, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
You lost at me at "kids." But whatever, as you say.
Is the vote to leave this in for now or to save it? I'm not in the "because it's much debated we need to avoid discussing it" camp. Because it's much debated we need to offer some guidance. Perhaps an agree to disagree statement as I did here. But I think singular they is more or less fine and perhaps we should more directly advocate it. Tony's link provides good examples. (If it's good enough for Jane Austin...) Marskell 14:40, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
(Although I don't retract my second post—if simply avoiding the subject for the timebeing helps get the proposal through then lets avoid it.) Marskell 14:43, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
It pains me to see such anger and hostility surrounding a debate about the use of a single word in Wikipedia. Let's remember that Wikipedia is a collaborative project, and not one opinion's quest for superiority over another. We here at this project are all on the same team; we are all working to make progress toward providing the most reliable encyclopedic content. Debate is a natural part of the encyclopedia building process, but let us remember that all debates that move us forward are about content to include in the encyclopedia, not heated arguments that almost stoop down to the level of insult-throwing verbal wrestling matches. Unless all the editors here can accept that they will debate in order to improve Wikipedia, this argument will tear us apart, not bring us together. Wikipedia is not censored, but that doesn't mean it's alright to throw expletives left and right and bring people down in a debate about equality and political correctness. Hope this helps, and happy editing, Arky ¡Hablar! 14:50, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
I had intended my last in the "let's move along" spirit. Your concern is appreciated, however. (I think you saw more dry annoyance than real anger in the above exchange.) Marskell 15:37, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

Adeptzare3 (talk) 05:32, 2 December 2013 (UTC): THE SINGULAR THEY IS COMPLETELY GRAMMATICALLY INCORRECT!!!!!

Singular they has numerous reliable sources (both formal style-guides and common-use examples) that disagree. DMacks (talk) 05:38, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

May I suggest a minor restructuring?[edit]

I've marked my proposed changes in boldface. The move of the "Please consider" sentence is intended to start the section off with a request – which is what it is – rather than "is not concerned with editors' beliefs". Since that latter statement is then followed by an intent concerning the effect on some people's "beliefs", a little clarification is required, which I've attempted to add. I attempted to clarify that "using he or she" means using the formula "he or she" and not "'he' or 'she'". I have also softened the final sentence to avoid indicating a preferential usage ("may still be used"), leaving it up to the editor unless the subject has a known preference. Askari Mark (Talk) 18:20, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

Gender-neutral language[edit]

Please consider the use of gender-neutral language where this can be achieved in reasonably tidy wording and without loss of precision. The use of gender-neutral language is not a statement about editors’ beliefs, but is intended to minimize or avoid language that might be interpreted by some readers as an unnecessary reinforcement of traditional stereotypes, such as:

  • he, his, she and her to refer to both sexes
  • man to stand for both sexes, either as a separate item (man’s journey into the unknown) or a suffix (fireman)
  • grammatically marked items to represent one sex (actress, conductress, career woman and male nurse), with the possible implication that the participation of the other sex is the norm
  • non-parallel expressions (man and wife).

This recommendation does not apply to direct quotations, the titles of works (The Ascent of Man), or where all referents are of one gender, such as in an all-female school (“If any student broke that rule, she was severely punished”).

There are a number of ways of avoiding the use of generic male and female pronouns, among which are:

  • pluralizing (not “A player starts by moving his piece”, but “Players start by moving their piece”), although this can be problematic where the text needs to emphasize individuals, or where it creates a need to switch regularly between singular and plural
  • using the formula "he or she" (“Each politician is responsible for his or her constituency”), although this can be ungainly if repeated within a short space
  • otherwise rewording (not “A pilot must keep his spacepod under control at all times; if he loses control, he must hit ‘new game’ immediately”, but “A pilot must keep the spacepod under control at all times; if that control is lost, the pilot must hit ‘new game’ immediately”)
  • using the singular they (“Each politician is responsible for their constituency”). The grammatical validity of this remains disputed, and it is both widely used and widely disagreed with.

Other generic usages can sometimes be avoided; for example, by using operated or staffed (instead of manned), people or humanity (man), layperson (layman), business people or business owners (businessmen). In these cases, ensure that the basic meaning is preserved. Where the gender of an individual subject is known, either gender-specific or gender-neutral suffixes may still be used, although the subject’s preference, if known, should be followed ("Bill Gates is a businessman" or "Nancy Pelosi is a congresswoman").

I think the comments below don't apply to this draft. I have no problem with Askari's proposed changes, except that I presume the word not is missing in error from the opening, before "a statement". Am I correct? Tony 01:29, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
Your assumption is correct, and I've amended the example with the correction. Askari Mark (Talk) 18:16, 7 September 2007 (UTC)


  • Unnecessary political correctness. Our aim should be to communicate information precisely and concisely, not to avoid offending anyone (WP:NOT censored, remember). In a game description, saying "a player starts by moving his piece" is precisely correct; rewording is simply pointless. In all foreign languages with which I am familiar (French and Spanish, in which gender is used much more extensively than in English), the linguistic default, where gender is uncertain, is to use male terminology. (For instance, in Spanish, the pronoun "they" would be ellos for a group of men and ellas for a group of women, but for a group of both men and women, ellos is used.) This is not sexism. It's standard usage in almost all languages AFAIK, and there is absolutely no need to rewrite Wikipedia according to feminist POV. WaltonOne 18:56, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
  • That's a nice example, Walton, but this is English, not Spanish or French, we don't have the equivalent –as or –os contruction, and your example doesn't apply. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:15, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
  • As I responded on WP:ANI (which is a very strange place to post on this topic) [1] and as pointed out above by Marskell, the practice of not substituting masculine pronouns where gender is indeterminate and another option can easily be used is standard in news and many other world organizations, and Wikipedia would only be catching up if we enacted this guideline. Tony's draft does an excellent job of showing how easy it can be. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:15, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
  • What's done in Spanish or French is irrelevant. Well and truly irrelevant. With my very so-so knowledge of it, I'd guess Il is much more embedded in French than he has ever been in English. It's used without qualification to mean "one (person)". But interestingly, I've been taught "one" is a Gallicism when used in English, which makes it all very funny. Perhaps it's not a borrowing—it doesn't matter because it's still irrelevant. Other languages and other wikis can decide on their own usage. We decide on ours. Marskell 20:40, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
  • I agree with Walton; we ought to say what we want; besides, few people follow this gender-neutral language anyway. I know I almost never do. 22:50, 16 October 2007. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)
I think Wikipedia should follow the language through these changes if they are adopted by society as a whole first. It is our job to describe the current world, not to lead it in an advanced run on political correctness. If the language used by the English world is sexists then that is not a problem for Wikipedia to solve, but society itself. ((1 == 2) ? (('Stop') : ('Go')) 14:19, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

[Reindent] Could we please keep the comments in this subsection restricted to the proposed changes outlined above? The main MOS talk thread is the place for discussions of "political correctness". I'd really like to get feedback on my proposed changes to the draft. Thank you, Askari Mark (Talk) 14:50, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

Singular they[edit]

We now read:

using the singular they (“Each politician is responsible for their constituency”). The grammatical validity of this is widely disputed, although it is widely used.

In the spirit of amity, fraternity, blah blah, I'm willing to go the extra kilometre not to offend self-styled "purists". But project pages too should I think avoid counterfactual assertions. And I see no evidence that the "grammatical validity" of singular they is "widely disputed". I even looked at that singular they article, and indeed got the first impression that there was some grammatical objection to it, but after a slightly closer reading this impression evaporated.

So how about:

using the singular they (“Each politician is responsible for their constituency”). The felicity of this is sometimes disputed, although it is widely used.

-- Hoary 08:40, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

PS (i) I don't even know what "grammatical validity" means. I took this to mean "grammatically acceptable". (ii) I'm increasingly getting the impression that even the guidebooks to "correct" writing have given up on this one. -- Hoary 09:55, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

I think "felicity" is an incredibly poor choice - most people will see this and wonder what a girl's name has to with anything. I'm going to look it up now, but as "felicitations" means congratulations, IIRC, I'm having trouble guessing the etymology...
Grammatical validity basically means that, were it possible to build a formal parser for English, only things that are grammatically valid would be accepted without error. The disagreement as to the validity is essentially a disagreement as to what the rules for such a parser would be. Of course, that only helps if you know about parsers, but it's the best I can think of in terms of explanation. Hope that helps. SamBC(talk) 10:01, 6 September 2007 (UTC)


using the singular they (“Each politician is responsible for their constituency”), although the grammatical correctness of this widely used option is disputed.

Tony 10:51, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

Sounds good, but I think that opponents of the usage will feel that it spins it more to being acceptable. It's still a compromise. SamBC(talk) 11:26, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Remove "widely used", then? Tony 12:00, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Just who is it who says that singular they is not grammatically correct? Who are these "opponents of the usage"? (The last time I looked, the singular they article suggested something similar but only managed to name a single "grammarian": somebody who wasn't a grammarian and who died in 1933.) -- Hoary 12:05, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Goodness me, don't remove "widely used" - it is widely used. I think the phrasing is good, I was just anticipating opposition. SamBC(talk) 21:18, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Thought you said the opponents would balk. Hoary, the opponents of the usage are in a great lather at MOS talk. They are, regrettably, part of the constituency and have to be taken notice of. Tony 01:24, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
I'm tempted to suggest that me and my new chum Marskell might deal with them with his recent and most welcome present to me.... Your good motives aside, you seem to want to say that the grammatical correctness of singular they is [present tense] disputed. I've had trouble believing that it could be disputed, but I've been open to evidence; and no evidence for it has yet come either here or within that article. Yes, an MoS proposal is a waste of time if it isn't approved; and to be approved it must be diplomatically phrased; and that's why, pace Sambc, I wouldn't mind if for example "widely used" were removed (even though it is widely used), or if singular they were described as regarded by some editors as stylistically infelicitous, mediocre or whatever. But as it is, the proposal seems to propagate a linguistic fiction. Which is particularly odd in the context of dealing with a different linguistic fiction (that he is sex-neutral). -- Hoary 01:52, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
Stylistically is preferable, I think. Are you in harmony with Pulham's contention concerning the bound and unbound context? Tony 02:16, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
Yes indeed, and it could be a good idea to summarize this, if it could be done in a way that curmudgeons (I borrow the word from Pullum) might digest without spitting out their soup in indignation. -- Hoary 03:48, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
I think widely disputed should stay, but it should be made clear that it is "widely disputed" in the way that evolution is "widely disputed"—i.e., by people who wouldn't recognize competent analysis of the subject if it bit them on the nose. Strad 20:18, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
There is really no call to make comments like that when there are people on this talk page who've disputed it (note: not me). That could be construed as a personal attack, as people disputing it have identified themselves, and therefore you are attacking a group of identified users. Please, please, can we keep some civility here. SamBC(talk) 20:21, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
Well, I don't think it should be worded like that. But something needs to be said that would pre-empt the sea of talk page comments like, "My English teacher said that singular they is wrong, so there." Disputing that singular they is grammatically incorrect means disputing that it has a significant presence in corpora of Standard English or (and I'm borrowing from Pullum here) asserting that what is "grammatically correct" Standard English is independent of how good writers and speakers use the language. Neither of these views are supported by linguists or linguistic analysis, and that's something that needs to make it into this guideline. Strad 20:42, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

The problem with saying "stylistically" rather than "grammatically" is that those who've voiced opposition identify the problem as one of grammar. SamBC(talk) 20:23, 8 September 2007 (UTC) Can I say that I don't think much of this detail is going to survive. The reality is that the objections are so vehement that we're going to be reduced to a couple of very mild sentences about GNL. That's the only way this is going to get through unless there's a sudden, voluminous rush of support for the full text. Tony 01:28, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Issues from WT:MOS#Proposal for guidelines on gender-neutral language[edit]

These are the only issues I could see spelled out:

  • "man-made" is not necessarily "artificial" [it's not?]
  • "manned" is not the same as "staffed" or "operated" [I agree.]

Are there any other problems with this essay? I see that the first has been removed, and I have hidden the second with HTML comments. ←BenB4 03:12, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Change this directly?[edit]

Is it appropriate for me to make modifications to this essay directly, or should they be discussed here first? --Dan East 03:28, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

WP:BRD applies here as much as anywhere else... SamBC(talk) 12:45, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Editor's POV[edit]

I don't think it is constructive to make references to an editor's POV. It doesn't matter why an editor decides to utilize or apply GNL, as long as the end result adheres to Wikipedia guidelines. I've reworded the essay in an attempt to indicate that GNL in and of itself does not indicate biased POV. --Dan East 13:16, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

This entire page is not the proposed guideline[edit]

There is a lot of opposition to anything more than the single sentence Jimbo approved -- so lets keep this an {{essay}} until the MoS discussion settles. The examples and advice don't make good proscriptive material. Is there a reason the entire page should be a proposal? ←BenB4 15:54, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

  • Yes, by definition, because it proposes that Wikipedia uses a certain kind of language. >Radiant< 08:54, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
    • Actually, there was a pretty wide view a few days ago that the only bit that should be in any guideline or policy is the short bit that ended up in MOS, with an essay outlining ways to write GNL. That's what this is now supposed to be. SamBC(talk) 11:21, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
    • WP:POL doesn't actually describe the difference between a proposal and an essay, but the gist of this is that there's wide support for MOS including the very short point that you keep removing, even though you seemed to let it sit there for a while, but not for the detailed instructions on how to write GNL, so they were to be kept in a seperate non-guideline page. This seems to make sense to everyone else. Oh, and please discuss here rather than through edit summaries. SamBC(talk) 11:48, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

In line with all this, I've changed the tag to {{how-to}}, as that seems to possibly meet Radiant!'s concerns, or will make the purpose of the page clearer. It still doesn't seem quite right, but hopefully someone can find a better tag. SamBC(talk) 11:49, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

  • I wonder if this page is actually "detailing a common practice? It appears to be detailing something that its proponents would like to become common practice. >Radiant< 12:19, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
    • Like I said, the tag isn't quite right, but it's the nearest I can find. No-one is advocating this full text becoming a policy or guideline, the "settlement" was for a short piece in the guideline MOS (as supported by Jimbo, for what that's worth), and then a non-guideline discussion of how to do it (because the vast majority of consensus problems were with the details of how to do it). SamBC(talk) 12:26, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
    • Yes, gender neutral language is clearly common practice. Most people on Wikipedia do their best to avoid unnecessary gender-specific language. This is a statement of the best practices way to do it. Wikidemo 12:28, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
      I am aware that you would like this to become common practice (q.v. your recent proposal to mandate it), but could you please give evidence for the assertion that it already is on Wikipedia? >Radiant< 12:50, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
      Yes, I can give evidence for this assertion. I turn to judge, in which he seems to be avoided, and in which I read the utterly idiomatic and gender neutral if a person believes that a law applied against them in court is unconstitutional, they can apply for consideration.... (my emphasis). -- Hoary 13:12, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
    • Yes, it is detailing a common practice. On he alone, see for example Chap. 5, §17.2.4 (a) ("Purportedly sex-neutral he", pp.491–3) of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. What evidence do you have that it is not detailing a common practice, and how old is this evidence? -- Hoary 12:46, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
      • I meant "common practice on Wikipedia", as that's what the page currently says. >Radiant< 12:50, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
        • Radiant!, are you now satisfied from the explanations above that "proposal" is not appropriate? You object to how-to, on what could be seen as a technicality — what would you suggest? SamBC(talk) 12:55, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
          • I'm not really objecting at the moment, I am simply wondering whether it is true that this is common practice on Wikipedia. If it is, then that should be easy to point out, and you'd be correct about "how-to". If it is not, then it would seem that this page proposes to chance current practice. Note that judged by the first dozen edits this page is intended as a proposal, and the wording hasn't substantially changed since then. >Radiant< 13:00, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
            • Well, it's hard to point out, because it's proving a negative. I've not seen many (can't think of any) articles that have any distinct amount of non-neutral language.
            • The page was initially a proposal, and then through discussion here and WT:MOS this changed. If the wording isn't appropriate to being a helpful guide to writing GNL, then the best thing is to help try to fix it. SamBC(talk) 13:04, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
            • Yes, it is common practice on Wikipedia. From the definition of farmer: The term farmer usually applies to a person who grows field crops.... They may, however, provide raw materials.... I'm sure you'll be relieved to learn this. -- Hoary 13:12, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
              • But according to this very page, the grammatical correctness of that phrase is widely disputed. If something is common practice and widely disputed, there would appear to be something wrong. >Radiant< 14:06, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
                • Well, it is common practice, and it does appear to be widely disputed. At least, those who dispute it reject the idea of phrasing saying that some object. Calling a spade a spade is fine, even if the spade is kept in the fridge... wow, that was a weird metaphore. Please blame my painkillers. It's hardly a novel idea in language that something be both common, and considered "wrong". Consider the French use of "walkman", where the academy insists that the word they should use is "balladeur" (sp?). The very people who legally define what is right in the language say it's wrong, but "walkman" is used almost universally in everyday speech. SamBC(talk) 14:09, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
              • No, the page says that its "grammatical validity" is widely disputed. In the context of a natural language, the notion of "grammatical validity" is very obscure. (Perhaps the writer was thinking of the validation of HTML syntax against a DTD.) Yes, the grammatical correctness of singular they is even now disputed by the most senescent "language experts" (a) and people who take these seriously (b). It's not disputed at all by actual thinking linguists (such as Huddleston and Pullum) (c). This mumbo jumbo about grammatical validity is, I infer, left in the proposed guideline as a sop to the sensibilities of group (b). -- Hoary 15:50, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
"A foo is a person. They do this and that". Notice the changing from singular to plural? I hate that sort of thing. The fact is that the English language lacks gender neutral singular personal pronouns. I don't like the idea of resorting to bad grammar to avoid this. ((1 == 2) ? (('Stop') : ('Go')) 14:36, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
And that is an opinion that many disagree with, including some respected grammar guides, not to mention a number of great authors. Singular they covers it quite well. Hence it being mentioned but with caveats. This is getting slightly beyond the stated point of this section, though. SamBC(talk) 14:44, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
While we can surely disagree, I don't think my comment was off topic. ((1 == 2) ? (('Stop') : ('Go')) 15:05, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
It wasn't off-topic (note hyphen), but seems to have resulted from a quick reading of the text overleaf. "The grammatical validity of this is widely disputed, although it is widely used." What more could you possibly want, even if it irritates you? It's as though the singular they is something that dare not speaketh its name. I don't see people patrolling WP to weed it out—I even see it on policy pages. Possibly because it's becoming unobtrusive. Tony 15:19, 18 September 2007 (UTC)
Singular they: if it's OK for god, it's OK for me. (And I speak as an atheist.) -- Hoary 15:50, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

Okay, this discussion has somehow moved from "Is gender-neutral-language common practice on en.wp?" to "Is singular they correct, incorrect, or evil?". The latter is a debate which has repeatedly shown potential to cycle ad infinitum, both sides are currently represented, if someone wants to change "validity" to something more correct then they can, but can we drop it and get back to the question of the tagging of this page? SamBC(talk) 16:51, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

  • Would it be a reasonable compromise to recommend that people use a form of GNL other than singular they? There are many ways of making language gender-neutral, and singular they appears to attract the most controversy. >Radiant< 10:48, 20 September 2007 (UTC)
    • It does attract a lot of controversy, but it also widely seen as correct, and unless MoS is going to "rule" on it generally (which I doubt will ever happen) it would seem inappropriate to make that decision here. Lots of examples above show how it is used on wikipedia, so... I do share your desire to avoid the controversy, however. I just don't think that giving in to dogmatism is generally a good idea. SamBC(talk) 11:31, 20 September 2007 (UTC)
Whether "singular they" is common practice or not is of zero relevance here. "Ain't" is common practice, too. What these share in common is that they are not of the formal register, the register that WP uses. I'm a huge fan of singular they in everyday speech and informal writing, and have defended it strongly in other contexts than this one, but here it just comes off as amateurish and sloppy, two of WP's most common criticisms from the public. — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 01:10, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Minor detail[edit]

Businessman does not imply business owner. Rich Farmbrough, 10:09 5 October 2007 (GMT).

I agree; not a good example, and there are so many others. Tony (talk) 11:10, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

About the sentence...[edit]

The Manual of Style guidelines on gender-neutral language state, "Please consider using gender-neutral language where it can be done without loss of neatness and precision."

Can anyone name an example of a time where it cannot be done without loss of neatness and precision?? Georgia guy (talk) 21:37, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

Ask PManderson. He has the generic male all over his talk page, and was a strident objector to the introduction of this policy. Tony (talk) 00:21, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Tony's comment immediately above that businessman is a difficult case; if he were not so intent on making this a personal matter, he would have seen that he is contradicting himself. For that matter, referring to a generic Wikipedian involves either using the existing generic pronoun, inventing one, or incurring a small but genuine loss of neatness. If those who communicate with me have done the sensible thing, it only improves my opinion of them. One is only a partial solution, even for those whose dialect includes it.
I suppose there is an argument that elegant gender-neutrality can always be achieved, whether we see how to or not; if someone sees a way of rephrasing to make that theoretical point, fine. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 19:30, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
I have yet to encounter any writing situation at WP in which a singular they could be used that could not be rewritten to avoid it (and the rest of the NGL pitfalls). Failure to find a way to do so, that does not do violence to the prose, is simply a failure of imagination, writing skill/talent, or both. — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 01:23, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Chairman vs. Chairperson vs. Chair[edit]

(moved from WT:MOS)

Hi all, couldn't find anything on a cursory search - has anyone discussed whether we should opt for a preferred term? I always found chairperson ungainly and was much pleased with an expert on gender's use of the succinct and monosyllabic chair. Any thoughts (apart from the usual moan on instruction creep which I will preemptively acknowledge) :) Cheers, Casliber (talk · contribs) 03:45, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

"Chair" is widely adopted by professionals and journalists in the U.S. TCMOS, Sections 5.202 and 8.31 (online, by subscription) - Dan Dank55 (talk) 04:05, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree: "Chair" is the best way. BTW, it doesn't matter that the "man" in "chairman" didn't refer to the male gender in the original French; what is important is the likelihood that it will be perceived as gender-specific by modern English-language readers. TONY (talk) 04:09, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
Okay, I'm just curious. Are you confusing the etymologies of "chairman" and "manhole", or have you got an etymological reference that contradicts the ones I've found? SamBC(talk) 10:59, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
"Chair" is generally objected to by plenty of executives when used as a noun to describe them ("to chair a meeting", with the word used as a verb, doesn't suffer this problem), on the basis that they are not pieces of furniture. Furthermore, some female execs prefer the masculine term (Esther Dyson as the [then-]Chairman of the Board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation being a real-world example). When gender is not known, use Chairperson. When known, I don't see any reason not to use the gendered version, absent a known preference of the subject person on the matter. Same goes for actor and actress. I don't buy the bit about minor actresses being called actresses and Oscar-worthy actresses being called actors. Can't find any evidence of that at all. The main issues with gendered terms are a) when they are used for one gender with a term that itself isn't gendered ("male nurse", "woman doctor", etc.), and b) when they are neologistic nonsense intended to imply that the (generally female) gender in question in the field in question is in some way rare, inappropriate, scandalous, lesser, or simply amusing (conductress, aviatrix, doctress, guitarista, etc.) For common terms, these issues aren't in play (actress, sportswoman, etc.) Furthermore, the -woman forms are necessary as counters to the -man forms when a -person form is not well-accepted yet, and an alternative would be awkward. Sportswoman, Congresswoman, etc., are well accepted, while "firewoman" doesn't mean anything to anyone, and neither does "fireperson", so we use "firefighter". — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 00:52, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Actor vs. Actress[edit]

Is there a preference of actor versus actress for a female? I have seen actor used for either. Thanks, Alanraywiki (talk) 21:57, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

Many people prefer not to "mark" female actors with a special word, since the inescapable conclusion is that male actors are the default. TONY (talk) 01:55, 10 April 2008 (UTC)
Actor is indeed generally acceptable. Following the suggestions of this page, "actress" shouldn't be used in most instances, as it's gender-specific where a gender-neutral term ("actor") is available. Tony is also correct as to the major reason many object to the use of the term "actress"; it's also worth noting that, even now, a female thespian is often referred to as an actress until they reach a certain status, at which point they tend to be referred to as actors. The gender-biased implications are obvious. SamBC(talk) 09:10, 10 April 2008 (UTC)
Describe this "certain status". Georgia guy (talk) 15:28, 10 April 2008 (UTC)
Hard to define, but it's usually the case that the term "Actor" is used more for widely respected, older female thespians than less respected, younger ones. SamBC(talk) 15:39, 10 April 2008 (UTC)
You must be careful here. "Actresses rarely suffer from age discrimination" has a rather different meaning from "Actors rarely suffer from age discrimination". To the extent that a person might well believe the latter to be true and the former false. Sometimes gender specificity is exactly what is needed. And actor is indeed male-marked. Calling Judi Dench an actor is as strange to me as saying that Bill Clinton is Hillary's wife. But Judi is a female thespian just as Bill is a male spouse. "Thespian" is a far more gender-neutral term than "actor" or "actress" (just as "spouse" is a far more gender-neutral term than "husband" or "wife"). -- Derek Ross | Talk 17:48, 12 June 2008 (UTC)
Generally good points, but I don't find -er/-or words unusual for females any more, and they are outright necessary in many cases due to lack of alternative words (Georgia O'Keefe was a painter, not a "paintrix", "paintwoman", "paintperson", "woman painter", "paintress", etc., etc.) That and "thespian" doesn't mean anything to a very large number of readers (for the same reason, I don't use other obscure field/occupation terms in various other contexts; e.g. I describe billiards and pool players as such, in those terms, in their articles, not as "cueists" or "billiardists", although both of those terms can be sourced). I've also seen some use "thespian" as a distinction meaning stage actors vs. film/tv actors, so it is also ambiguous. — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 00:58, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
I've responded to this thread more broadly at the "chairperson" thread immediately above, since they raise the same issues. — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 00:58, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Explicitly neutral pronouns (ze, hir, etc)[edit]

I've just been quietly rewording a few articles to avoid using this sort of thing and instead to use they (or a name) where possible; would it be worth mentioning something about it in passing here?

On the other hand, we de-facto discourage it already - I've found only four cases in the main namespace so far, and half of those seem to have been typos for 'his' - this is after going through 350 pages. It's very unusual to have a situation where we can't rework the text to use conventional English forms - Leslie Feinberg might be one, where we use 'ze' in the sentence stating they prefer that mode of address, but evade it everywhere else in the article.

Thoughts? Shimgray | talk | 18:29, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

There have been quite a few different attempts at inventing gender-neutral pronouns. In fact there are more invented gender-neutral pronouns than gender-specific ones. However none of them have really caught on. This is partly because it is fairly straightforward to write gender-neutral text without using them and partly because using them makes it look like you're saying "Look how clever I am, using gender-neutral pronouns" even when you're not. This is why we generally try to write gender-neutral text using conventional English forms. As you say it's generally pretty straightfoward to do -- as long as you don't mind the occasional use of "one" or of the "singular they" in any case. -- Derek Ross | Talk 06:28, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
They don't catch on because it is virtually impossible to alter the inflectional morphology of a language through activism or other conscious efforts to change it; it is deep, core stuff in the language, and alters more slowly than another other aspect of language shift. — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 00:40, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Merge proposed[edit]

Wikipedia:Use modern language#Gender neutrality is covering a lot of the same ground as (often in more clarity and detail than) GNL. A merger would make sense and help GNL be a little more substantial. It could be helped in other ways in that regard by possibly importing a few more points from the related Meta page. The MODLANG section merger could also resolve some serious issues I'm having with the current wording of GNL, which is too wishy-washy and permissive. — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 00:38, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

It's not gender it is sex[edit]

Except for the troubles with "they" as singular, this whole section is irrelevant. Gender is a grammatical term.

"They" as singular, therefore, rightly is a problem of gender (well, one of number, but that the singular is grammatically male: and this is where the problem lies making analogies to other languages which have grammatical gender where English generally does not).

But mostly, when people are talking about gender, they mean sex (whether an organism is male or female, both or neither). Wikipedia MoS is just plain wrong to call it gender. Of course sexism is unacceptable, that's not at issue, and language neutrality is good. The crux of the problem is the confusion of gender and sex. The article should be called sexist language, simple as that. Again, I emphasis I omit "they" from that statement, as it is about gender.

I don't really know why I bothered to support this as it is WP:SNOWBALL. Still, I got it off my chest.

Best wishes SimonTrew (talk) 12:47, 29 April 2009 (UTC)

No: the biological sciences use "sex"; the social sciences use "gender". Tony (talk) 13:32, 29 April 2009 (UTC)

No, there are trendy semi-literates in all fields; but a paper on "sex discrimination" is social science 99% of the time. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:02, 29 April 2009 (UTC)
I think gender makes more sense, less ambiguous. Chillum 13:35, 29 April 2009 (UTC)
Gender is far more ambiguous, as this discussion already demonstrates. "Gender" has no necessary connection to sex at all, as with the German das Weib ("wife", but neuter). Except where the fixed and unfortunate phrase gender-neutral is unavoidable, we should say what we mean. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:02, 29 April 2009 (UTC)
Hmm I was not aware that gender could mean a subclass of a grammatical class. I do see the source of confusion. It seems that both gender-neutral and sex-neutral are accepted and widely used terms this subject. Do we really not have a word in English that means the separation of sexes that does not have other meanings? Sex can mean intercourse which makes the title misleading, and gender has a grammatical meaning that can be just as misleading. Yet these are the two terms most used to describe this concept. I will have to think about this. Chillum 23:25, 29 April 2009 (UTC)
I will say that 'sexist language' is right out. It would imply that the article is about derogatory language. Chillum 23:27, 29 April 2009 (UTC)
Common misconception, here. "Gender" has more than one correct definition. In fact, it has about five of them. "State of being male or female, sex" is one and the social sciences' "gender roles/gender identity" is another. Frankly, I like that "gender" has moved in to replace "sex," which has undergone a usage shift to mean "intercourse" almost exclusively in ordinary speech. Our best option when using the word "gender" is to make sure that the context establishes which definition of "gender" is in use at the time, even to the point of coming out and saying " 'gender' here meaning 'gender identity' " or "here meaning 'state of being male or female' " when necessary. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:36, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
Absolutely correct, and that's why I find this discussion ridiculous: using "he" as sex-neutral is not sexist. It is correct. Using "she" is wrong. Using "they" is debatable. Why are people so offended by grammar that they try to rewrite the English language in order to get rid of gender entirely? (talk) 08:56, 9 September 2012 (UTC)
Mankind is masculine. All of humanity can be called "man". That has nothing to do with sex. It's just grammar. Any attempt to rip that out will lead to awkward wording or make it take far too much effort to avoid using a completely correct, acceptable, not-at-all sexist word because some people don't understand grammar and take offense to the English language. There is too much real sexism in the world to waste time with this. (talk) 08:56, 9 September 2012 (UTC)
I have to agree with the OP and Gender is rooted in grammar, sex is rooted in biology, and while the word gender often is applied to biological sex, it is a misleading use of the term. Grammatical gender historically precedes, and is independent of, "natural gender" (i.e. biological sex). This is demonstrated in other Germanic languages, such as German (which has three genders, e.g. das Mädchen "the girl" is neuter gender), Swedish (which has only two genders, common and neuter, e.g. en man "a man" and en fru "a woman" are both common gender, but et barn "a child" is neuter gender), and indeed even Old English (which, like German, had three genders, e.g. þæt cild "the child" and þæt mægden "the girl" are both neuter gender). Linguistically speaking, man means "person", not necessarily "male person", and woman is the Modern English development of Old English wīfmann, which literally means a man (person) who is also a wīf (female person). Old English wīfmann, by the way, is also masculine gender. I would say much of this guide, suggesting we should force gender neutrality into everything, is a good example of recentism as a form of systemic bias. We are trying to appease a very small but vocal political faction that has arisen in the United States within the past century to attempt to whitewash thousands of years of linguistic development of any perceived gender bias (as if this supposed gender bias reflects an underlying sex bias). It is also worth noting that this effort seems to be limited to the English language. I don't see any Swedish women struggling to liberate fru from the common gender. Sex is sex, gender is gender, and I think we should content ourselves to keep it that way. Wilhelm Meis (☎ Diskuss | ✍ Beiträge) 18:23, 11 August 2013 (UTC)


“The grammatical validity of [the singular they] is frequently disputed, although it is widely used in informal writing and speech.” This seems to imply that informal writing is acceptable in Wikipedia articles. Shouldn’t encyclopedias be formal? —Frungi (talk) 06:15, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

Agreed. "They" is common in informal contexts and it may one day become correct English (I'm rooting for it, actually), but it does not at this time suit Wikipedia's encyclopedic tone. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:32, 28 December 2009 (UTC)


Do we, or should we, have a policy on pronouns and animals? It seems to me that the best approach is to use he or she when gender is known or obvious, and it when gender is unknown. Thus, The wolf protects its lair but The hen protects her young. Barnabypage (talk) 17:59, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

Concur. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:28, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

Singular they as "unsuitable for Wikipedia"[edit]

A recent debate on WT:MoS reached no conclusion one way or the other about whether or not the singular they is proper in encyclopedic writing. In light of this, it seems a bit extreme to say "it is unsuitable for Wikipedia" as the current text does. How do you all feel about "Wikipedia advises editors to seek other solutions before employing the singular they"? Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:50, 13 January 2010 (UTC)

OK. Will you consider "using" instead of "employing"? Tony (talk) 00:03, 14 January 2010 (UTC)
It's already there. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:56, 14 January 2010 (UTC)

A thought from Bryan Garner (Garner's Modern American Usage, 2nd ed., p. 717):

“... you’ll probably want a style, on one hand, that no reasonable person could call sexist, and on the other hand, that never suggests you’re contorting your language to be nonsexist.”

I'm not sure there's an answer to the suitability of the singular they, but I think gender-neutral language should not call attention to itself to the detriment of the article; perhaps this is one additional consideration for WP editors. It seems to me that this fits well with the current wording.

Garner, incidentally, is a proponent of the singular they, given its long historical usage, and sees his fellow Americans as the primary obstacle. Nonetheless, as an attorney, he recognizes that persuading the judge is everything, and that consequently, the writer's viewpoint matters less than the reader's. JeffConrad (talk) 10:19, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

I'm not a fan of singular they, especially in forms other than they or their, but I wonder if the current wording isn't a bit severe, as was suggested under Singular they. Might it make more sense to recast the issue in terms of reader perception rather than “right” or “wrong”? Perhaps “its grammatical validity is frequently disputed at many levels” could be replaced with something to the effect of “many readers find the lack of number agreement between they and a singular antecedent” unacceptable.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., 5.204, may afford some help, as well as citable source for finding alternatives to singular they when feasible:

One the one hand, it is unacceptable to a great many reasonable readers to use the generic masculine pronoun (he in reference to no one in particular). On the other hand, it is unacceptable to a great many readers either to resort to nontraditional gimmicks to avoid the generic masculine (by using he/she or s/he, for example) or to use they as a kind of singular pronoun. Either way, credibility is lost with some readers.

Would it be worth adding a Further reading section and including works such as Garner’s Modern American Usage and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage? Both devote several pages to avoiding gender bias, and describe many methods for doing so. Chicago describe the problems well enough but are less helpful in solving them. JeffConrad (talk) 09:51, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

As I've indicated, I think the version prior to Tony1's edits was somewhat biased against singular they; I think it's now gone the other direction. As Chicago mention, there are many, especially Americans, who object to the usage. Perhaps something in between unsuitable and the current wording would be the best way to say it. Perhaps it would also help to add something to the effect of “, especially in American English” to the end of the second sentence. JeffConrad (talk) 12:22, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

"One" as inappropriate[edit]

We are having a discussion about "one" as a gender-neutral pronoun on WT:MOS#One_vs._you. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:52, 24 January 2010 (UTC)

Yes, but I don't think there's consensus for the major changes you've made. I'm reverting. Tony (talk) 10:59, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

Boats and Trains[edit]

Ships, sailing boats, (steam) railway locomotives and cars are often referred to colloquially (by owners and fans) as "she". I was just wondering whether there is any specific guideline regarding such usage within Wikipedia articles, or whether this page just sweeps up this usage too. Since I have already changed "she" to "it" as 'not enyclopaedic' in a number of articles, it would be good to have a specific reason to quote in the edit summary. -- EdJogg (talk) 01:30, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

This came up within the past month at WP:MOS. The rough consensus was that it can go either way. Maurreen (talk) 01:55, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
Thank you. Having ploughed my way through that discussion it is reasonably clear that 'internal consistency' is the most important, and changing one form to the other is generally inappropriate. I will bear that in mind for the future.
For the benefit of other readers, the (long) discussion is archived here: Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 114#She's a ship
Incidentally, two WikiProjects have addressed the issue in their project guidelines:
EdJogg (talk) 02:20, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

Reinforcing the gender binary[edit]

"He or she" as suggested in the essay isn't all-inclusive or truly gender-neutral - it excludes anyone whose identity isn't accurately or entirely expressed by just one of "male" and "female" (this can but does not necessarily include people who are genderqueer, androgyne, bigender, agender etc). I feel this should be noted - something like "though this is not inclusive of people who identify outside the gender binary", or possibly "who do not identify as one of male or female"? Kaberett (talk) 15:02, 27 May 2011 (UTC)

Sex. It's a sex binary. It is absolute and immutable. Some people are men and others are women. Simple as that. "He or she" has nothing to do with the post-modern nebulous pseudo-scientific concept of "gender". XY chromosomes? He. XX chromosomes? She. "He" refers to men, defined as those people who are male, defined as those people who produce male gametes. "She" refers to women, defined as those people who are female, defines as those people who produce female gametes. (talk) 09:03, 9 September 2012 (UTC)
So I don't know about the "gender binary", but the sex binary ain't going away. "He" and "she" adequately encompass all of mankind with very few exceptions. (talk) 09:03, 9 September 2012 (UTC)

She before he?[edit]

The article suggests a number of ways to avoid using generic gendered pronouns, one of which is to write "he or she" instead of just one or the other. I've been having an extended disagreement with a Wikipedia editor who claims it is not acceptable to place a female pronoun before a male one, even though switching the pronouns does not alter the meaning of a phrase or make it more difficult to comprehend. Always placing the male pronoun first is simply a different type of the "unnecessary reinforcement of traditional stereotypes" that the gender-neutral writing policy seeks to correct. Before I change the page to reflect this, does anyone have input? Helsabott (talk) 21:30, 28 December 2011 (UTC)

The best approach is to change gendered pronouns to non-gendered pronouns (such as singular they) or reword the sentence so that no gender is specified, for example, "spouse" instead of "wife or husband". Changing the order of gendered pronouns is discouraged as this will often lead to edit warring, since neither order is officially preferred. Kaldari (talk) 00:08, 29 December 2011 (UTC)
Hi Helsabott, I would have to agree with the editor who reverted you. The article uses Generic antecedents in an abstract sense, there is a long-standing argument about political undertone that might run beneath certain usage -Generic_antecedents#Political_opinions. In this case, however, the reverting editor had no idea about your intentions or the larger political statement that you might be trying to convey. If we were to apply the same criteria, several hundred thousand articles, and several million publications might need to be corrected to accommodate a different perspective. At its core, its a stylistic choice, but also relies on decades of learning and assumptions that English language works off of, native-speakers have certain gender-specific usages hard-wired in their brain Generic_antecedents#Approaches_taken_in_English, this might be drifting into the territory of cognitive linguistics rather than a straight grammatical choice. Unlike Kaldari, I do not believe Gender neutral antecedents are easily replaceable, for eg., the usage of singular "they" as gender-neutral singular pronoun is disputed. The article on Usage note sections covers this very issue [2] as well as this NY Times article [3]. Regards. Theo10011 (talk) 00:39, 29 December 2011 (UTC)
Regardless of it's controversy, use of "they" to refer to ambiguous singular antecedents is by far the dominant usage in modern English writing.[4] Wikipedia generally strives to match current usage, regardless of various group's political POV on such issues. Kaldari (talk) 01:04, 29 December 2011 (UTC)
Kaldari, thanks for making it clear why the editor warned me about my changes without explanation; I also did not know that "he" as standard came about in Victorian England (though it's hardly surprising). Theo, I agree that "they" may not be the solution to the problem right now, but I don't agree that precedent requires us to continue writing in a gender-biased way. Preexisting literature didn't prevent us from discontinuing the usage of "negro" and other racist terms, nor was society required to go back and edit every publication that used outdated terms for the change to be accepted. I would be surprised to find a native English speaker for whom placing "she" in front of "he", or using "her" as a generic antecedent, would be so disorienting as to render a clause incomprehensible. It is the prevalence of only using male pronouns or always placing them first that makes doing otherwise sound strange to us, giving it the appearance of being "hard-wired"; the only "assumption" off of which this convention works is that men are more likely to contribute to society than women, which historically was the case but no longer applies. I can think of few more appropriate places to start changing this bias than Wikipedia, since it affords the opportunity for discussions like the one we're having, generally reflects the most current thought on its subjects, and is read by millions of people every day. Helsabott (talk) 01:20, 29 December 2011 (UTC)
Helsabott, I would first compliment you for noticing a rather subtle nuance of the language overlooked by most readers, and the undertones it might carry. I don't have any particular thoughts on the subject, so I would urge you to bring up the discussion in the correct forum first. The political undertones aside, we have to be considerate of other editors, I would suggest communicating and informing them first before you undertake such a move on a random article. I am glad to hear that you can think of other places this can be brought up. My point was, while the usage of feminine pronoun might not be enough to render the clause itself incomprehensible, it is enough to disorient a reader not aware of your intention, to question or correct it, to fulfill some stylistic expectation, a user might have become more accustomed or attuned to. I also disagree with your comparison of racial epithets with generic antecedents, one was used at a time when society's norm of political correctness was relatively devolved, it might have been used originally to de-humanize and denigrate others based on the color of their skin and later took-off as an acceptable term, the other, is strictly a stylistic choice between 2 pronouns that differs from language to language and period to period, while traditional grammarians would disagree, there are manuals that argue for its usage and against it, going back several centuries (usage of they). Languages other than English, also have an interesting approach to the issue. But before I digress, my main point was, discuss the issue first on a wider forum before choosing a random article to correct, try and be considerate of the other editor who might not know your reasoning. I commend your initiative and urge you to bring it up for discussion, perhaps somewhere related to the Manual of style, and see what others think. Regards. Theo10011 (talk) 01:43, 29 December 2011 (UTC)
Theo, I agree that epithets are not analogous to gendered antecedents (I tried to come up with a better comparison and couldn't), but you clearly see my point. It is indeed interesting that this discussion could not happen in regards to other languages like French and Spanish, where gender-neutral articles don't exist (I do wonder if some similarly-minded speakers of those languages would like to see a change in plurals, so that just one man does not turn an entire group into a male one - but I also digress). I tried to engage with the original editor and stopped doing the edits as soon as I saw their first warning, but they've not replied to my inquiries. I have continued the discussion on this page at the urging of another, more communicative editor who suggested I engage with other users to see if a consensus on the issue could be reached. I'll find an appropriate MOS-related place to continue. Thanks for your comments! Helsabott (talk) 01:56, 29 December 2011 (UTC)
Another interesting fact is that "you" was originally a plural pronoun but gradually came to be used as a singular pronoun. Just goes to show that languages are constantly evolving. Kaldari (talk) 02:20, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

When can this NOT be done??[edit]

This project says that we should use gender-neutral language when it can be done with clarity. However, this project needs examples of times when it cannot. Go to Talk:Antichess and it reveals an example of such a time. Georgia guy (talk) 18:36, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

Now the discussion at Talk:Antichess has been expanded (with only 2 Wikipedians ever posting anything) and it suggests that instead of:

The Manual of Style guidelines on gender-neutral language states, "Please consider using gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision."

The statement can say:

"It is recommended, but not required, that you use gender-neutral language, but if you do, it absolutely must be done with clarity and precision."

This variant of the statement is more consistent with the discussion at Talk:Antichess appears to suggest. Any thoughts?? Georgia guy (talk) 00:36, 20 November 2012 (UTC)

That doesn't provide any information about "When can this NOT be done". Hyacinth (talk) 21:06, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
The discussion on that talk page implies that there's a statement at Antichess where it cannot be done. Georgia guy (talk) 21:12, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
I agree that an example of an exception could be helpful, but I don’t think that’s a very good example. From what the other editor there said about it, some explanation of the history of chess literature would be necessary. Examples should be more concise than that, I think. —Frungi (talk) 03:32, 21 November 2012 (UTC)
Any better example of a time it cannot be done?? Georgia guy (talk) 13:14, 21 November 2012 (UTC)

An example is not an explanation, but may be used to illuminate an explanation. Hyacinth (talk) 06:52, 29 November 2012 (UTC)

But one real question I have is: Is there any real consensus that the generic male is a better last choice than singular they?? Georgia guy (talk) 14:25, 29 November 2012 (UTC)
In my opinion, the singular “they” is grammatically incorrect and wholly unsuitable for an encyclopedia. But like the page says, there’s no consensus either way on that point. Probably best to avoid it until there is, though. —Frungi (talk) 19:28, 29 November 2012 (UTC)

(from Talk:Antichess)

Do you think WP:GNL's introductory statement should change to: Either gender-neutral language or generic he is acceptable; if you use gender-neutral language, please make sure it has clarity and precision. (It currently reads "Please consider using gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision." Georgia guy (talk) 18:47, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

I don’t. Though I personally have no problem with the generic “he” since we can’t use “it”, I think the consensus is that it’s generally not acceptable. But also remember that Wikipedia policy is not binding and exceptions abound. Policy pages reflect general consensus; article talk pages reflect specific, case-by-case consensus. When the two disagree, the latter trumps the former. And, of course, if you disagree with the disagreement, you can always ask additional editors, for instance by starting an RFC. —Frungi (talk) 18:56, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
But there's no banner at Talk:Antichess or any similar talk page saying "On chess articles, use gender-generic he". Georgia guy (talk) 19:21, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
In the case of that article, I don’t think it’s necessary since the discussion is there for all to see. If you think there should be, feel free to suggest one. It’d probably make more sense to bring up on the Wikiproject talk page, though, since you’re asking about chess articles in general. —Frungi (talk) 20:24, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
I'll try it, but please note that it's also important that some reference to chess articles as an exception must be mentioned on WP:GNL if there's consensus. Georgia guy (talk) 20:28, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

Titles of URL's[edit]

The sentence in this guideline says:

This recommendation does not apply to direct quotations ("All men are created equal"), the titles of works (A Man on the Moon), or cases where all referents are of one gender, such as in an all-female school ("If any student broke that rule, she was severely punished").

I would like to know if it makes sense to expand this sentence to include titles of URL's. Titles of URL's are often mentioned in references. To clarify what the title means, please do not confuse titles of URL's with URL's themselves. An example of a URL is:

An example of the title of a URL is:

Editing Wikipedia talk:Gender-neutral language (new section) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Any thoughts on this?? Georgia guy (talk) 18:35, 10 December 2012 (UTC)


With the chairman article, the talk page says that there's consensus to have the article at its gender-specific title and ignore gender-neutral language. Any thoughts about when GNL does not apply?? Georgia guy (talk) 20:44, 12 February 2013 (UTC)

"Players start by taking up their positions" -- NO[edit]

From the essay:

Pluralising (not "A player starts by taking up his position", but "Players start by taking up their positions"), although this can be problematic where the text needs to emphasize individuals, or where it creates a need to switch regularly between singular and plural.

Problematic, agreed! I edit lots of games articles, including game rules, and language such as "Players start by taking up their positions" is something I would automatically reject, since it is inherently confusing, implying to the reader that each player may have or control *more than one position*. Game rules need to be precise, confusion is bad, very bad. The gender-neutral effort in examples like this introduces imprecision (and confusion). Ihardlythinkso (talk) 00:14, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Please let someone (other than me or Ihardlythinkso) make a response to this statement. Georgia guy (talk) 00:27, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
  • Who* are you addressing? (And why?) I was leaving a comment and a view, not interested to start a debate. You seem to be trying to turn my comment and input (view) into an RfC? (If so, then start one yourself. Don't try and mutate my comment and view into an RfC.) Ihardlythinkso (talk) 01:38, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
So what do you suggest? Should such cases be made gender-neutral in some other way? Or do you think GNL is unimportant there? Or are you saying we need a different example on this page? —Frungi (talk) 02:12, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
Gawd. (Your question "what do you suggest?" implies that I think something must be done, must be changed. I don't think that and never did.) What I wrote was clear. Please don't do the "are you saying" thing. (That is a technique, manipulative, I've seen from GeorgiaGuy numerous times in the past. [And now you too?!]) Please read what I wrote. I did not create an RfC here. (If someone wants an RfC ---------- go create one on your own, for yourself, for your own purpose. Quit attemting to morph a clear view and input that I registered here.) Ihardlythinkso (talk) 02:17, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
Maybe this will help ... Notice I quoted the entire paragraph, from the Project page. (Why did I do that? Because I was unable to tell, whether or not "this can be problematic where the text needs to emphasize individuals, or where it creates a need to switch regularly between singular and plural" covers my point [or not]. So I registered my point in this section, in case not. [The text "this can be problematic where ..." is ambiguous and unclear.]) Does this help you understand the purpose of my post? (Hopefully, it does. I'm not lobbying to clarify the current text which I stated was ambiguous, since I am not a part of this project. But perhaps it does need clarification, that is up to you. But I registered my specific and clear view and comment, as above, for the reasons already stated.) Ok, Ihardlythinkso (talk) 02:25, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
Sorry; that was not my intention. I was just wondering what your intention was for posting that. You seemed to be complaining about something in the essay, so I assumed you wanted it changed. But if you were just sharing your view with no expectation of feedback, please forgive me for replying. Also, I don’t believe you need to be part of any wikiproject to make or suggest changes to any part of Wikipedia—but someone please correct me if I’m wrong; I’ve never been part of any wikiproject, but I meddle wherever I feel like trying to help. —Frungi (talk) 03:38, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Let's review the statement being discussed:

Pluralising (not "A player starts by taking up his position", but "Players start by taking up their positions"), although this can be problematic where the text needs to emphasize individuals, or where it creates a need to switch regularly between singular and plural.

Do you notice the phrase "can be", as opposed to the word "is"?? Georgia guy (talk) 13:27, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Not to put words in his mouth, but I believe he's said he was simply expressing his own view rather than discussing the statement he quoted. —Frungi (talk) 13:46, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
I absolutely noticed it ("can be"). (Did I say I didn't? Did anything I wrote imply I didn't?) Why are you being so insulting and bad-faith???? Ihardlythinkso (talk) 15:20, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
This means that he wants to express his own view as if it were NPOV. Georgia guy (talk) 13:48, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
Um… what? —Frungi (talk) 14:01, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
He's expressing his own view. We all have our own views on some things, and to others they might seem POV. Remember WP:NPOV. Georgia guy (talk) 14:11, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
If a thing is one’s own view, that means it’s POV. By definition. And besides the fact that it was a post on a Talk page, Wikipedia namespace pages are not encyclopedic articles, so I honestly have no idea what you’re taking issue with here. —Frungi (talk) 20:13, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
But Antichess, which is just one example of an article that has non-neutrally gendered language, is in the article namespace. Georgia guy (talk) 20:32, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
And if POV content has been added to that, please do remove or alter it. But an opinion expressed on a WP-namespace Talk page has nothing to do with WP:NPOV, unless it’s an opinion concerning that policy. —Frungi (talk) 20:44, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
I altered it to make it gender-neutral, but Ihardlythinkso reverted me. Georgia guy (talk) 20:53, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
I believe that would be something to discuss there. —Frungi (talk) 21:02, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
As usual, I have no idea what Georgia guy is talking about. What I wrote was clear. I have no idea how you are misinterpreting it. Ihardlythinkso (talk) 15:24, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
I'm interpreting it as meaning that you think gender-neutral language is not important. Georgia guy (talk) 15:35, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
That just shows two things: (1) you don't read carefully what someone has written, instead prefering to load it up with ghosts of things never said or meant, and (2) that you feely exhibit bad-faith. Ihardlythinkso (talk) 15:40, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Everything's fine. There are other options besides pluralization. Hyacinth (talk) 16:24, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Look at the Antichess article and look for other options. Georgia guy (talk) 16:30, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
You mean in the lead, “the winning objective of the players is to lose all their pieces”? Personally, I would say “the player’s objective is to lose all his pieces,” but I believe mine is a fringe view on GNL: to oversimplify, it doesn’t matter unless it matters. —Frungi (talk) 20:09, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Singular they as last choice[edit]

I think we need discussion on whether singular they should be acceptable as a last option, that is, if there are no other good options that avoid gender-specific language. I say it should. Any objections?? Georgia guy (talk) 00:03, 26 April 2013 (UTC)

In my opinion, it is ungrammatical and thus never an acceptable option. Traditionally in English, “he” (or less commonly “it”) is the pronoun used for persons of unknown or indeterminate gender, and I see no problem with doing so unless a particular subject is sensitive to sexual equality issues or some such. If using “he” to mean “he or she” is really so problematic, I would support a motion to use, for instance, “a player loses all its pieces”; “any student who needs to use the restroom should raise its hand”; “if an editor disagrees with me, it should share its thoughts.” However, I don’t think most people would accept using the only un-sexed pronoun in English to refer to people, so I use “he”. —Frungi (talk) 00:43, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
That's your opinion. Singular they is actually very old; it was not a modern coinage created to avoid non-neutrally gendered language. Georgia guy (talk) 00:49, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Yes, my opinion is indeed my opinion. Not sure why you thought that point needed to be repeated when I emphasized it above. Anyway, I didn’t say anything about age; I said that, to my mind (and regardless of whether it’s widely considered true or not), it’s ungrammatical. Besides, old literature is full of things that we consider ungrammatical today. I thoroughly acknowledge that my opinions on grammar may differ from both linguistic experts and every day people; I just posted on the chance that there are people out there who agree. —Frungi (talk) 01:07, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Support. (With caveat that "should be acceptable" doesn't mean "best" -- many times the masculine pronoun is best in chess contexts.) p.s. Frungi, referring to a player by "it" would instantly connote a chess-playing computer! Ihardlythinkso (talk) 00:54, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Can you reveal how chess is special to your "many times" statement?? Georgia guy (talk) 01:17, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
I recommend reviewing this discussion from late last year for some possible insight on that matter, and also request that anyone who wishes to reply read that first. —Frungi (talk) 01:23, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Frungi, I'm through trying to discuss anything with Georgia guy, he's asked this "what's special about chess?" how many times in the past, and received answers how many times??? One has better time how to spend their voluntary time on here than this kind of irrational repetition of extremist "gender-neutral-at-all-costs-even-if-it-wrecks-article-text" POV social nonsense. Articles come first, not his liberal-extremist POV. (And BTW, he, Georgia guy, is at least crassly insulting and insensitive/incivil in at least 50 percent of any of his posts. Does he have any clue at all?!) Have fun but stop polluting chess articles please, with your liberal-social agenda according to some ideal social norm that isn't supported by any MOS and comes straight from the personal qualities of the editors involved. (Georgia guy is not the only one.) This is my last post on this board, like, FOREVER. Georgia guy: you are not welcome at my Talk. Please go away. Ihardlythinkso (talk) 03:05, 26 April 2013 (UTC)

Mentoring "Georgia guy"[edit]

We are all in luck, I am free and have agreed to mentor the troublesome user User:Georgia guy on proper Wiki-etiquette and collaboration. Thank you. Roxette Fanatic (talk) 21:29, 26 April 2013 (UTC)

What do I need about proper etiquette?? I was just trying to convince User:Ihardlythinkso that WP:GNL says use gender-neutral language, but he says no. He absolutely prefers generic he. Moreover, he pretends that he is civil when he really isn't, as I could conclude very easily from all the discussions I've had. Georgia guy (talk) 21:49, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
If I recall previous discussion on the matter, it’s not a use of the “generic he”; it’s that the hypothetical players Black and White are male. —Frungi (talk) 03:37, 27 April 2013 (UTC)
Well, nice to meet you, son. I am your new mentor. My name is Thorkill. You say, furthermore, that "he" is "absolutely generic," so what is the problem? Being "absolutely generic" is gender-neutral, is it not? In any case, as part of your mentoring you and I shall be working on new-changes patrol for the next 30 days. I want you to make at least 50 vandal-reversion edits for the next 30 days. After that, I have a few research projects I need your help on, particularly on the White_Sea_–_Baltic_Canal. Thanks in advance. Roxette Fanatic (talk) 21:57, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
I'm not the one who says he is generic; it's Ihardlythinkso who says so. Georgia guy (talk) 22:43, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
If this mentorship is sincere, it probably shouldn’t be discussed on a Wikipedia-namespace Talk page; the mentee’s user page would be more appropriate. If it is not sincere, it shouldn’t be discussed at all.
To Georgia_guy’s claims: I’ve noticed civility problems in the conduct of both you and Ihardlythinkso. But that discussion, too, does not belong on this Talk page. —Frungi (talk) 03:34, 27 April 2013 (UTC)
Well, the civility problem is actually Ihardlythinkso's fault. I sometimes find it hard to respect uncivil Wikipedians. Georgia guy (talk) 12:50, 27 April 2013 (UTC)
Well, first of all, I hardly think that. Neither does anyone else. That's why you are the one getting mentored. How is that new changes patrolling coming? Have you made your requisite fifty vandal reversions each day? I will be checking up on you. Thanks in advance, Roxette Fanatic (talk) 15:31, 29 April 2013 (UTC)
Please read what this page says. The page Wikipedia:Gender-neutral language says:

Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision. It does not say:

Either gender-neutral language or generic he is acceptable, please retain whichever one was used in the first non-stub version of the article to prevent edit wars.

Ihardlythinkso appears to agree more with the latter statement. Which version of the policy do you support?? Also, please note that Ihardlythinkso is someone who is uncivil and doesn't want me to know it; I initially didn't notice it for a while, but after a while I found out myself this statement, and it was hard work. (Alternately, Ihardlythinkso is someone who is uncivil but pretends to be civil.) Georgia guy (talk) 15:36, 29 April 2013 (UTC)

Ah, well, please settle down, son. It is clear to everyone that you have been not only uncivil but also have made no pretense to ever be civil. That is, once again, why you are the one that require the mentoring. And in light of harassing edits such as this recent edit, I have increased your daily vandalism reversion quota from fifty to one-hundred a day. Furthermore, you are required, as part of your mentorship, to add at least two reliable, print sources to at least one article each day from this category: British chess biography stubs. Alles Klar? Thanks in advance, Thorkill. Roxette Fanatic (talk) 15:43, 29 April 2013 (UTC)
Dude, stop attacking a user who has opted out of the conversation. I have no authority here, but if I did I would say Ihardlythinkso is off limits as a topic of discussion, regardless of who was more uncivil. If you really have a problem with him, take it up on a noticeboard or something, or just drop it.
As for whether “he” is gender-neutral, I think the MOS section on it, this essay, and the Gender-neutral language article are all fairly clear on that point: It’s not. As I’ve said, I believe that my opinion, that generic use of “he” should not be problematic in many cases, is a fringe view, and Wikipedia should not be expected to follow it. But equally, the question of whether to use “he” when referring to hypothetical chess players has been answered, so you can stop asking it. —Frungi (talk) 18:49, 29 April 2013 (UTC)
For clarification, see the following section of this talk page, in which I'm explaining in my own words what Frungi means when he says that "he" in the statement "White moved his king to e4" is not gender-generic. However, I still have a big concern people will think it refers to the actual people (in which case it would be gender-generic) and not the metaphorical chess players White and Black who are by definition male. Georgia guy (talk) 18:53, 29 April 2013 (UTC)
I think that’s definitely a discussion worth having, but I feel like an essay talk page isn’t the best place for it. Since it’s an MOS matter, I’d try WT:MOS. But if you do want to have it here, I suggest starting an RfC or something to get more eyes on it. —Frungi (talk) 18:59, 29 April 2013 (UTC)

Metaphorical people[edit]

Let's examine this statement located in the previous section of this page:

If I recall previous discussion on the matter, it’s not a use of the “generic he”; it’s that the hypothetical players Black and White are male. (the speaker is Frungi.)

Now, I'm trying to understand why this is not "gender-generic he".

In many situations, people talk about metaphorical people, who are not technically real, but who personify concepts. The pronouns we use to refer to them by gender are as if they were real people of their assigned gender, regardless of what pronouns would refer to the people or things we're talking about them in place of.

An example is Mother Nature. She is not a real person; she is a character people talk about in place of nature. Nature is inanimate; normally we would refer to nature as "it". But when we talk about the metaphorical person Mother Nature, we would use "she".

According to the above statement, "White" and "Black" are also metaphorical people; they represent the 2 sides of a chess game, and are male regardless of the actual people playing chess; and the chess world talks about these metaphorical people, not the actual people playing chess, when saying statements like "White moved his king to e4."

An analogous statement is that when we watch Disney movies, we refer to the characters, not the actors playing the characters, when we talk about quotes from the movies. For example, we say:

The Queen from Snow White says, "Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all??"


When playing her role of the Queen in Snow White, Lucille La Verne says, "Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all??"

although the latter is what's literally happening. Any better analogies?? (Please remember that what I'm trying to do is understand what the quote of Frungi means when he says that it is not "gender-generic he". Georgia guy (talk) 16:45, 27 April 2013 (UTC)

This is essentially as I understand it, yes. But I think this occurs when talking in the abstract or hypothetical, not when referring to actual games. For instance, “In the following chess problem, if White moves his King to…”. But if discussing a game in which one of the players was female, you might say, “Black protected her Knight by…”.
Again, this is my understanding of how chess is discussed, but I am far from an expert. I suspect this question would be better served on WT:CHESS where editors more versed in the matter may be more likely to see it; but if any such editors see this and believe I misunderstand, please speak up. —Frungi (talk) 04:59, 28 April 2013 (UTC)
What I do for these cases is say "he" or "she" depending on my random impulse, with the intention of circling somewhere in the vicinity of 50% overall. I would certain say "White moves her pawn..." in a situation involving hypothetical players. This is idiosyncratic (although I wish more people would do this), but as far as I know its not wrong and I don't' intend to stop doing it absent some policy against it. ("White moves their pawn..." is also correct idiomatic English at this point and is also fine for most non-pedants, although I personally don't use it.) I agree that Mother Nature and Father Time etc. take their respective pronouns, but I've never heard that Black and White are male and I've been around the track a couple times. If it was Mr Black and Mr White it'd be different. But it's not. If the chess community has some different notion that matters little in my opinion because A) this encyclopedia is for the general reader not the chess community and B) that'd be ridiculously outmoded and so not worth considering. Herostratus (talk) 02:03, 30 April 2013 (UTC)
Alternating paragraphs or examples between male and female is a fairly common practice, and I can’t imagine that there would be consensus against allowing it. I’ve seen it in several books and such. It’s a matter of personal preference, I think; personally, that practice bugs me since it tends to draw my attention to itself, and feels like the writer is saying, “Look at me, I’m being politically correct!”
I agree with you on the chess community vs Wikipedia, but in earlier discussion on here and WT:CHESS, consensus seemed to be to follow the convention in chess literature of referring to both sides as male. —Frungi (talk) 02:59, 30 April 2013 (UTC)

Man overboard[edit]

Look at this sentence (from the project page itself):

The Manual of Style section on gender-neutral language states, "Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision." This recommendation does not apply to direct quotations ("All men are created equal"), the titles of works (A Man on the Moon), cases where all referents are of one gender, such as in an all-female school ("If any student broke that rule, she was severely punished"), or the occasional event of a woman preferring a masculine term ("From 1998 to 2000, she (refers to Esther Dyson) was the founding chairman of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.")

Any thoughts on how to categorize the phrase Man overboard?? Is it in a fifth category that GNL does not apply to?? What can this category be named?? Georgia guy (talk) 21:50, 9 May 2013 (UTC)

First: Does it matter?
Second: I think that’s an idiomatic phrase. Anyway, “man” in that context does not mean “adult male”, but rather “person” (wikt:man#Noun sense 3 as of this writing). So it really isn’t a GNL issue. —Frungi (talk) 02:15, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
Yes, it is. Man meaning person of either gender is gender-specific language. Georgia guy (talk) 12:42, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
How is it gender-specific when it’s either gender? —Frungi (talk) 18:22, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
In gender-neutral language, human being is a gender-generic term and man is gender-specific. In gender-specific language, man can mean person of either gender. Please read Gender neutrality in English for examples of phrases of each kind. Georgia guy (talk) 18:39, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
Many words have multiple senses, and it’s usually clear from context which meaning is being used. If a word has a gender-specific sense and a gender-neutral sense, why ignore the latter in favor of the former? Like I said above, “man” in this context means Wiktionary’s third definition of “person”. —Frungi (talk) 18:50, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
Many words do have multiple senses. In many cases, some senses are considered proper by some grammarians. I need to bring up this discussion at the village pump to see if anyone else has thoughts here. Georgia guy (talk) 18:53, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
  • "Man overboard" is indeed idiomatic, in naval usage. You are specifically trained to yell 'man overboard' if someone falls off the ship, and the defined meaning of the Oscar flag is 'man overboard.' It's also used by association....for instance, on a small auxiliary boat that doesn't normally hoist flags you'll have a 'man overboard pole' to hoist one with. (not an 'opinion' on the article, just interjecting.) Revent (talk) 19:57, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
    And does it belong in one of the 4 categories GNL does not apply to?? Which one?? Georgia guy (talk) 20:06, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
    Since it’s a set idiomatic phrase, I suppose you could say it’s a quotation. But why do you need to categorize it? —Frungi (talk) 20:13, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
    It depends on the context, and that article is about the nautical concept, so it should refer to that concept as 'man overboard', and the associated things as 'man overboard pole', 'man overboard alarm', 'man overboard drill', etc. 'man overboard' is the name of the idea....but where you address what it is you use neutral hoist the man overboard flag when a person falls off the ship. Revent (talk) 20:23, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
Its a gender-neutral generic... You would write: "When she tripped and fell off the ship, the lookout cried 'Man overboard!'". Blueboar (talk) 20:35, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
Yeah, it looks like you'll have to make a new category. --Golbez (talk) 20:39, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
  • TBH, it'd be a good thing to go through the table of contents of a Bluejacket manual (there are lots of free copies around) and make a list of the 'idiomatic' entry names...there are quite a few. For instance, if there is a helmswoman steering the ship, she's still at the helmsman's position. Revent (talk) 20:53, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
Had trouble thinking of an example that didn't use a quote: She was complaining about being part of a man overboard drill. Revent (talk) 21:01, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
Or... She hopes to qualify as a helmswoman, so she can stand watch as helmsman. Revent (talk) 21:06, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
As far as the specific term "man overboard" is concerned... it may even be species neutral... suppose someone brought their pet dog on board a boat, and it fell into the water. What procedure would the crew follow? There is no dog overboard drill. Blueboar (talk) 12:52, 11 May 2013 (UTC)

The phrase is "man overboard!", so changing it for another one wouldn't reflect the actual term. — Preceding unsigned comment added by NaBUru38 (talkcontribs) 15:17, 15 May 2013‎

So can fixed phrases be a fifth situation GNL does not apply to?? Georgia guy (talk) 17:43, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
I think they would fall under “direct quotations”. Maybe that needs to be worded more broadly? But anyway, this page is an essay and is not normative—this page does not and cannot dictate what editors should and should not do. —Frungi (talk) 19:17, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

Event where a woman prefers a masculine term[edit]

Is there any easy way to tell whether any particular woman in Wikipedia belongs in this category?? Georgia guy (talk) 19:53, 27 May 2013 (UTC)

Wondering about someone in particular? Specifics would help. —Frungi (talk) 03:52, 28 May 2013 (UTC)
Related question - what if a man prefers a masculine term? Would we use it? Or do we only make this exception for women? --GRuban (talk) 03:13, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
How does a man preferring a masculine term mismatch how GNL works?? In GNL, "chairman" is a masculine term and "chairperson" is gender-generic. But sometimes, a woman might prefer to be called by a masculine term, and although this is normally inconsistent with GNL, in this situation she actually prefers the masculine term as if it were gender-neutral language. Georgia guy (talk) 14:26, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Let me be more specific. If John Smith uses the word chairman when talking about his position, do we call him chairman or chairperson? --GRuban (talk) 19:15, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Chairman. But it doesn't normally violate GNL because both terms would sensibly refer to a man. For a woman preferring chairman over chairwoman or chairperson, it would violate GNL because in GNL, chairman is a masculine term. Georgia guy (talk) 19:32, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Thanks. Clarifying essay. Back to the original question - I would think we would tell it the way we do anything else in Wikipedia: with Wikipedia:Reliable sources. We'd need to find a reliable source that says so. In most cases, just giving an example of the subject using the term in relation to herself should suffice. --GRuban (talk) 19:56, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
No, that wouldn’t violate it, because it makes an explicit exception for that. How does one “violate” an essay, anyway? —Frungi (talk) 20:35, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Well, this whole essay is a clarification of the Manual of Style section on gender-neutral language, which states, "Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision." That can be violated. — Preceding unsigned comment added by GRuban (talkcontribs) 21:20, 29 May 2013‎

Non-GNL in disambiguation[edit]

I've noticed we still use "(businessman)" and "(salesman)" to disambiguate articles. It seems to be counter to this page's policy. Not sure where to bring it up for discussion though. Thoughts? EvergreenFir (talk) 23:26, 29 December 2013 (UTC)

If the people the articles are about are men, then you must note that GNL doesn't apply to situations where all known members are of one gender, such as an article about an individual whose gender is known. But if the people the articles are about are women, then just propose requested moves appropriately. Georgia guy (talk) 23:28, 29 December 2013 (UTC)
I guess my question is why gender it at all? Why not make disambiguations with "businessperson" or "salesperson"? EvergreenFir (talk) 23:50, 29 December 2013 (UTC)

RfC: Use of gender-neutral language in spaceflight articles[edit]

How should spaceflight-related articles deal with gender-neutral language when existing terms have deep historical roots, and the WikiProject Spaceflight project is, like much of Wikipedia, heavily peopled with male editors? Discussion here: Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Spaceflight#Use_of_gender-neutral_language_in_spaceflight-related_articles. N2e (talk) 19:07, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

Question - Is there any reason it should not apply? EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 17:16, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
You won't get such a rationale from me. However, if you happen on over to that page where it is being discussed, you will see folks who get their dander up about it. My sense was that, having a meta-discussion within the (rather active) spaceflight WikiProject might allow us to both discuss the meta-issues, and put to rest some misunderstandings from what other editors report have been very contentious stuff in the past (I wasn't involved in any of those, thankfully). Given the opposition that has surfaced, I'm not optimistic about a good outcome. N2e (talk) 19:18, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
If this is still an active RfC, then I believe that it should be based on the sources. Which quantity has the earlier wording and which ones do not. If there's a swing in the obvious direction, go that direction. Tutelary (talk) 01:03, 26 October 2014 (UTC)

Transsexual, transgender[edit]

We seem to have a (de-facto?) policy of referring to transsexuals by their preferred-gender pronouns, even when describing events before they transitioned (see Renée Richards for an example of this) and regardless of whether they actually complete SRS. I have no problem with that but think we should perhaps codify it somewhere. What to do with transgender or androgynous people is sometimes less clear, especially in the case of performers who adopt a persona different from their biological sex. In DWV (group), for example, we refer to Willam Belli as "he" but to Matthew Sanderson (aka Detox Icunt) and Vicki Vox as "she". Without more research (or OR), I don't know how to find out their preferences. The Ru Paul article says that s/he is OK with either pronoun, and WP has gone with "she". I would like to see some more guidance, in either MOS:GNL or this essay. Peter Chastain [habla, por favor] 04:59, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

@Peter Chastain: I think you might be looking for WP:IDENTITY and Wikipedia:Gender identity. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 05:10, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
The RuPaul article currently uses "she" and "he" for the lead because of this edit that an IP made. The rest of the article uses male pronouns, at first glance anyway. The article should be consistent regarding the gender pronouns in this case; so either the IP's edits should be reversed, or the rest of the article should use female pronouns. Flyer22 (talk) 05:24, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
@EvergreenFir: Thanks, I should have known there was a much more complete guideline. @Flyer22: OK. I think I just messed up Ru Paul even more with a couple of too-hasty edits. I will take a slower look now and fix it, unless someone else gets to it first. Do you have a suggestion which option ("he" or "she") to use? I am thinking "he", because Ru Paul has no strong preference, and that is Ru Paul's biological gender. Peter Chastain [habla, por favor] 05:41, 15 October 2014 (UTC)
I was going to suggest "he" before your "05:41, 15 October 2014 (UTC)" post because, although transgender is a broad term, a lot of transgender people, especially those who go through gender transition (as in permanently identifying as the gender opposite the one they were assigned at birth), distinguish transgenderism from transvestism. This is also seen by debates at the Transgender talk page. By that categorization, and with RuPaul being a cross-dresser, he (or she) is the latter. The term transvestite is considered offensive to many in the transgender community, and many in the LGBT community as a whole, however. Then I thought about "she" fitting RuPaul best because RuPaul is more well-known by his (or her) female persona. So I'm conflicted on which gender pronoun to use for RuPaul. Maybe VisaBlack, a relatively new Wikipedian who is interested in LGBT issues and recently edited RuPaul's Wikipedia article, using "her" in an edit summary, has an opinion on this matter.
Also, since the Wikipedia:Gender-neutral language page, and therefore its talk page, is on my WP:Watchlist, there is no need to ping me to this discussion via WP:Echo. Flyer22 (talk) 05:58, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

Citation formatting RfC[edit]

FYI: Pointer to relevant discussion elsewhere.

Please see Talk:Aspromonte goat#RFC on citation formatting for an RfC about the scope of WP:CITEVAR and whether it can be used to prevent changes to problematic ref IDs, such as cases where women researchers are disrespectfully referred to by short forms of their first names, as in <ref name=barb> instead of <ref name="Rischkowsky"> for an author named Barbara Rischkowski, in an article where a male author is referred to by surname.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:47, 21 November 2014 (UTC)

Precision and clarity[edit]

My main goal in writing Wikipedia:Gender-neutral language#Precision and clarity was to help people understand what precision and clarity means, with practical examples rather than abstract concepts. If anyone has ideas about how to improve these, then please be bold! WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:09, 2 March 2015 (UTC)


I have looked around to see if there exists a template for tagging non gender-neutral language in articles but can't seem to find one. Does anyone know of one? Obviously fixing the article is preferable to drive by tagging but some people don't feel confident rewording passages and it may be challenging for a user who's first language is not English. I assumed there'd be a tag similar to the reference and notability tags that could provide a warning like "the following section may not follow Wikipedia Policy on gender neutral language. Please reword to avoid unnecessary gender specific phasing." Thanks for any help Storeye (talk) 03:32, 13 March 2015 (UTC)

I would say it's challenging for you as well. (I've seen some of your GNL rewrites and am not impressed. I think the "clarity and precision" part has been forgotten in lieu of an obsessive agenda to "fix" something not broken. I can provide examples what I think sucks about some of your changes if you like that. But no, I'm currently not touching those sub-project articles myself, for reasons unrelated.) p.s. That's all we need are more templates to unnecessarily junk-up articles. IHTS (talk) 13:14, 21 March 2015 (UTC)
I do find it challenging and 100% agree with you my GNL rewrites are not as elegant as Cobblet's but having waited for someone to do a better job I figured a sub-par job was better than none at all. I absolutely invite you to do a cleaner job and am happy to direct you to the pages that need fixing if you'd rather. In the meantime I'll continue to fix the instances I notice the best way I know how and would be delighted if you or someone else beats me to them or rewrites my edits to do a better job. The reason I requested a template was specifically to avoid the distress on editors like you from editors like me fixing these things ourselves. All the best Storeye (talk) 01:25, 22 March 2015 (UTC)