Indians use more English than necessary

Gender-neutral English

English is a world language that everyone who works internationally has to do with. Its simple and logical structure makes it easy to learn and features such as the absence of a grammatical gender and gender-specific endings in adjectives give the impression at first glance that one is also dealing with an extremely gender-neutral language. In fact, the (sexist) devil is in the details and, if you don't want to offend a strong, independent woman in English, you have to pay attention to some linguistic subtleties.

In the USA in particular, calls for more gender equality in language have been growing louder since the 1980s, and most US states have now introduced guidelines on gender-neutral terms. In Washington there is even a 500-page draft law on the subject.

In order to save you embarrassing slip-ups on the slippery floor of politically correct wording, here are some useful tips and tricks on gender-neutral English:

Great efforts are made, especially in professional life, to integrate women in the best possible way. However, while in the German gender-sensitive language, the focus is primarily on making women visible in the world of work, in English one tries to find terms for job titles that work across genders and thus do not exclude either gender, but also do not highlight:


DO:        „stewardess“/ „steward"À"flight attendant



DON'T: For professions for which there are no gender-neutral umbrella terms, such as "actor“/„actress" and "comedian“/„comedienne“, Using the generic masculine word

Be careful when addressing women in English! Did we learn in English class at school that a married lady is a "Misses"And an unmarried lady a"Miss"Is, and we are often ashamed to the bottom because we talked to a lady whose status was unknown to us and we didn't know how to address her, time is now finally on the side of the ignorant.


DO:        „Miss“Is now accepted as a form of address for both married and unmarried women.

DON'T:Misses“Is now often felt to be out of date. And under no circumstances should you address a woman as "Misses + her husband's full name" back. "Mrs. John Smith“Comes from a time when a woman and her husband represented a unit and had no rights of their own.


  • The man and the human race

A thorn in the side of supporters of gender-neutral language are above all the terms “man”, “men” and “mankind” if all people are meant in general terms. In Old English, “man” was actually the umbrella term for “we” (man) and “wif” (woman). However, this meaning has shifted over time and today the male connotation clearly predominates. Last but not least, a generalizing use of "men" would even be out of place and involuntarily funny in many situations, for example: "Some men are female!". (Or don't you think of a man in women's clothes as the first thing you think of when you hear that statement?)


DO: Absolutely "human (s)“, „humanity"Or"human child“Prefer if you don't want to look like yesterday


  • Singular pronouns: he, she, it, they?

Above all, the relationship between natural and grammatical gender, which often causes confusion in almost all other languages, is solved in an extremely pragmatic way in English. Everything that is not human is labeled "it"Denotes", everything male with "hey"And everything feminine with"she". It gets complicated, however, if you want to make a statement that includes both male and female persons, which is often the case in public correspondence, legal texts, etc. There is no singular pronoun that refers to both genders, like the German "man"Or the French"on“.


The proposed solutions to this issue are as numerous as the question is old and the debate is heated:

DON'T:Since the middle of the 19th century, the generic use of “he” for both genders has spread in English. This solution, which for a long time was considered the most correct, should now be avoided at all costs.

DO:A solution that is often encountered in documents, but which is visually somewhat inelegant and, above all, difficult to achieve linguistically, is the use of "he or she“, „he / she"Or "(S) hey". You are absolutely right with your use, especially in public correspondence. However, anyone who opts for this approach can easily give the impression that they are deliberately politically correct and are therefore not spared criticism. Especially the use of "(S) hey“Is often seen reluctantly, as attentive observers believe they recognize that the feminine is represented here only in brackets, that is, as inferior to the masculine.

DO:Sometimes also "one“Used. Although this solution is generally accepted, it is unfortunately not applicable in all cases. From the sentence "Each student should save his question until the end."Cannot be"Each student should save one’s question until the end." do. Often with the use of "one"There is also a slight difference in meaning, e.g .:"One should save one’s question until the end."Therefore it is often preferred to"you“Is used, which only works with instructions.

(DO):The oldest and most controversial, but also the most useful solution, is the use of the so-called "singular they“, Which we already encountered in the literature of Shakespeare and Jane Austen, but was frowned upon by language critics in the 19th century and is still somewhat stigmatized today, although it is quite common. You simply use the plural pronoun "they" as a singular pronoun if there is no more precise information about the gender of a person being referred to, for example: "Somebody left theirumbrella in the office. Would they please collect it. ”This version is mostly at home in British English. However, depending on the dictionary used, their acceptance ranges from absolute rejection to recommendation as the preferred form for gender-neutral pronouns.

So caution is advised if you want your business texts to be translated into gender-neutral English, because the devil is in the details. It is best to have such texts edited by a native speaker who is not only at home in the language, but also has a lot of experience with text translations and is always up to date with the latest linguistic developments. Your customers will thank you!