Gender-Neutral Language

Gender-neutral language is preferred wherever possible.

In practice, gender-neutral drafting means three things:

Noun forms

Gender-neutral noun forms (chairspokesperson, etc.) are preferred:

Pronouns: they, them and their

The gender-neutral pronouns that are to be used are they, them and their, both referring to singular and plural nouns:

The use of a third-person plural pronoun referring to a singular noun was formerly perceived as grammatically incorrect, but is now widely used.

If the text clearly refers to a specific individual on a particular occasion, and you know the gender of the person concerned, you may use a gender-specific pronoun:

Otherwise, depending on the circumstances, consider the following FOUR alternatives:

1. When writing instructions, use the second person or the imperative:

Where possible draft in the plural; this is very common in English for general references:

 2. Omit the pronoun altogether:

Substitute ‘the’ or ‘that’ for the possessive pronoun:

3. Avoid using ‘he or she’; use 'they' if possible:

Using 'he or she' becomes clumsy if repeated too frequently and should be avoided. If its use is really necessary, prefer ‘he or she’ to ‘he/she’, ‘(s)he’ or ‘s/he’, which should be avoided.

4. Repeat the noun:

This can be cumbersome and look excessively formal, but may be a useful technique in a longer sentence.

tool: ms word check for gender-neutrality

Microsoft Word has a nifty tool that can help you check a document for inclusiveness and gender-neutrality. What you need to do is: open your document - select File - select More - select Options - select Proofing - go to Writing Style, there find Grammar & Refinements and click the button for Settings. You will see a list of subjects with boxes you can tick. Go to the section named 'Inclusiveness', tick all boxes and then click 'OK' at the bottom:

MS Word will now start checking your documents for inclusiveness. When a word is found to infringe on one of these categories, it will be underlined and a list of suggested alternatives will be provided, e.g. MS Word will suggest changing a word such as manpower into workforce.

Reference List

European Commission English Style Guide - A handbook for authors and translators in the European Commission Eighth edition: January 2016 Last updated: May 2018 "[PDF File]" Retrieved from