Usage of gender-neutral and racially sensitive terminology

"Calvin College is committed to creating a campus environment which honors the diversity of gender and race in the Christian community. Since language is a powerful influence in our academic community, we are committed to using inclusive language in all areas of the Calvin community’s life,” says the “Policy on Inclusive Language,” adopted by Calvin on Nov. 2, 1992.

gender

1. Do not single persons out by gender.

  • INCORRECT: The texts chosen for the popular interim were by Dickens and Jane Austen.
  • INCORRECT: The texts chosen for the popular interim were by Dickens and Ms. Austen.
  • CORRECT: The texts chosen for the popular interim were by Dickens and Austen.

2. Use non-gendered terms to refer to both men and women.

  • CORRECT: She was the lead actor in several Calvin Theatre Company productions, and she almost never removed her stage makeup—which was weird.

3. Avoid words that include the word man to refer to both men and women. Use the following terms:

  • chair or chairperson instead of “chairman”
  • spokesperson instead of “spokesman”
  • mail carrier or postal carrier instead of “mailman”
  • firefighter instead of “fireman”
  • CORRECT: She was the spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Calvinists.
  • CORRECT: He served as chair of the department of humanities until inhumane treatment forced him to resign, and she took his place.

4. English has no third-person pronoun that refers to a person of unknown gender. Rephrase a sentence in one of several ways rather than using his to correspond with everyone. Do not use their to correspond to everyone, as it sets up an odd singular/plural hybrid. The correct solutions are listed by degree of editorial elegance.

  • INCORRECT: Everyone should pack his copy of The Riverside Handbook to read on the long bus ride to Grammar Camp.
  • INCORRECT: Everyone should pack their copy of The Riverside Handbook to read on the long bus ride to Grammar Camp.
  • CORRECT: Everyone should pack his or her copy of The Riverside Handbook to read on the long bus ride to Grammar Camp. (Use his or her. Do not overuse this solution, however, as it is somewhat awkward and grows more awkward with each use.)
  • CORRECT: Everyone should pack a copy of The Riverside Handbook to read on the long bus ride to Grammar Camp. (Insert a in place of pronoun.)
  • CORRECT: All students should pack their copies of The Riverside Handbook to read on the long bus ride to Grammar Camp. (Change the singular to a plural.)

5. Refer to adult females as women, not ladies or girls.

  • CORRECT: The professor, who had been rebuked early in his career for sneering at “certain lady authors,” also offered a course on women in literature during which he referred to Becky Sharp as a “hussy.”

race and ethnicity

1. Use currently accepted terms—such as American Indian instead of “Indian” and Asian instead of "Oriental”—to refer to persons of a particular racial or ethnic group. For a complete list of appropriate terms to refer to race and ethnicity, see the latest edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.

2. Hyphenate multi-word descriptors of ethnic or racial groups only when they serve as compound modifiers.

  • CORRECT: The scholar who spoke on the lost city of Zimbabwe was African American.
  • CORRECT: He was an Anglo-American scholar who taught African-American literature.

For more information on unbiased language, see The Riverside Handbook.