Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Clear, concise, and effective English for law students, bar examinees, and legal writers in organizations, private companies, and government offices (15): Use gender-free language

The US Supreme Court and Gender-Neutral Language: Splitting La Difference” by Judith D. Fischer, University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law) 2012
Traditional writing uses masculine pronouns like “he” or “his” to refer to both men and women. “Gender-neutral” language, on the other hand, uses “he or she,” “his or her,” “he/she,” and “his/her.”

The British Columbia Securities Commission advocates “gender-free” language (Plain Language Style Guide, 2008). The BCSC explains that the occasional use of “he or she” and other gender-neutral terms may be non-intrusive, but their repetitive use distracts and annoys readers. For example:

Traditional use of masculine pronoun: Gender-neutral language: Gender-free language:
The borrower who is not prompt in making the payments due under his mortgage risks losing his home through a foreclosure procedure. The borrower who is not prompt in making the payments due under his or her mortgage risks losing his or her home through a foreclosure procedure. Borrowers who are not prompt in making the payments due under their mortgages risk losing their homes through foreclosure procedures.

Richard Lauchman, in his free PDF (A Handbook for Writers in the U.S. Federal Government), provides six ways to cut “his,“his/her,“his/hers,“his or her,“s/he”:

[1] Cut “his/her,” “his or her” from the sentence, if possible.

Every writer must use his/her good judgment. Every writer must use good judgment.

[2] Use “you.”

Each researcher must bring his/her driver's license or other photo identification. You must bring your driver's license or other photo identification.

[3] Make the first term plural, and then use “their.”

Each researcher must bring his/her driver's license or other photo identification. All researchers must bring their driver's license or other photo identification.

[4] Use an article (“a,” “an,” or “the”).

Each researcher must bring his/her driver’s license or other photo identification. Each researcher must bring a driver’s license or other photo identification.

[5] Write a passive construction.

Each researcher must bring his/her driver’s license or other photo identification. A driver’s license or other photo identification is required.

[6] In a lengthy document, you can use “he“ and “she“ interchangeably.

Exercise: The text below comes from the Civil Service Commission website. (1) Locate the five gender-neutral terms. (2) Revise the sentences by using gender-free language.
1. CSE-PPT

Results of the CSE-PPT are usually released from three to four months after the examination. The names of passed examinees shall be posted at the CSC website www.csc.gov.ph.      

Those who passed the examination must personally claim their Certificates of Eligibility at the CSC Regional Office/Field Office upon presentation of required documents. On the other hand, those who failed the examination may secure a copy of their Report of Rating through the CSC website. No Report of Rating shall be mailed to those who failed. To secure a copy of the Report of Rating, an examinee must key in his/her name, date of birth, examinee number, examination date, and examination type. Thus, examinees are advised to safe keep or remember their examinee number until receipt of the examination result.

2. CSE-CAT

Results of the CSE-CAT are usually released within two to three hours after the examination. Examinees are strongly advised to wait for the examination results. Those who passed shall receive their Certificate of Eligibility, while those who failed shall receive their Report of Rating. Should an examinee fail to claim/receive his/her examination result on the examination day, he/she has to personally return at a later date to claim either his/her Certificate of Eligibility or Report of Rating.      

The names of passed CSE-CAT examinees shall be posted at the CSC website.

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