Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Nonsexist Language: The Pronoun Problem - Part 2

As I mentioned at the end of Part 1, he (a subject pronoun) is easier to avoid than him (an object pronoun), and both are easier to avoid than his (a possessive pronoun).

To avoid him, your options are:
  • Switch to the plural.
  • Substitute a noun for "him."
  • Reword the sentence to eliminate the need for "him."
  • Substitute "him or her" for "him."
Here are examples of all but the last method.

Eliminating the Object Pronoun "Him"
Original: The best way to pressure a person is to confront him with choices.
Revised:The best way to pressure people is to confront them with choices.

Original: By demanding a down-the-line return, you make him hit the very return he usually tries to not hit.
Revised: By demanding a down-the-line return, you make receivers hit the very return they usually try to not hit.

Original: If your partner often does a particular thing you don't like, simply tell him how it makes you feel.
Revised: If your partner often does a particular thing you don't like, simply say how it makes you feel.

Often, eliminating his is harder than eliminating he or him, especially if you have a he, him, and his in the same sentence. Yet, you have six ways to eliminate his.

To avoid using "his"
  • Cut the word his.
  • Use an article (a, an, or the) instead.
  • Switch to the plural.
  • Switch to the second person (using you).
  • Write in the passive voice.
  • Substitute "his or her" for "his."

Here are examples.

Eliminating the Possessive Pronoun "His"
  • A senator must use [his] good judgement.
  • Every player in this program must be prepared to spend [his] summers at camp.
  • Each player must bring a driver's license or other photo identification.
  • Players must bring their driver's license or other photo identification.
  • You must bring your driver's license or other photo identification.
  • A driver's license or other photo identification is required.
  • Each player must bring his or her driver's license or other photo identification.

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