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Words Matter and CNN agrees

Yesterday CNN had a great article on gender and language and no I'm not just saying that because they quoted FairerScience friend Kathryn Campbell-Kibler

In English there is no gender neutral, grammatically correct singular pronoun. As the article explains:

Consider the sentence "Everyone loves his mother." The word "his" may be seen as both sexist and inaccurate, but replacing it with "his or her" seems cumbersome, and "their" is grammatically incorrect.

Some people may think "So what? Everyone knows that "men at work" means "people working," but as Kathryn pointed out: "Studies have shown that gendered words do make a difference in how we perceive things. If you ask children to draw 'cavemen,' they do draw cave men."

I was happy to note that the folks in Atlanta agree. They replaced "Men Working" signs with signs that said "Workers Ahead" (guess they figured out that women work too). Yes language makes a difference.

And actually FairerScience has a downloadable tool on that (ok yes of course it is downloadable; everything we do is) written by yup Kathryn Campbell-Kibler. "Words Matter" is one of FairerScience's most popular downloads. Heck it was referenced by Excellence in Scientific Writing . Actually my favorite reference for "Words Matter" was from Nigeria (alas the link is no longer live). Each time I get a "Nigerian letter" I think, wow we helped them write that (hopefully none of you respond to these letters, no matter how well written they are).


Fortunately, the use of "they" and "their," while grammatically incorrect, is pretty ubiquitous. Language is always evolving, and I think it won't be too long before someone has the sense to recognize that they *are* our gender-neutral singular pronouns (even if they're also plural).

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