Guidelines Language

The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing for Writers, Editors and Speakers

The Handbook of Non-Sexist
Writing for Writers, Editors
and Speakers
Casey Miller,
Kate Swift
The Women’s Press1981

This book shows us how to avoid sexist language and how to find clear and elegant ways of saying what we actually mean. The first edition was quickly established as the standard book on non-sexist writing, recommended by The Chicago Manual of Style.

Conventional English usage… often obscures the actions, the contributions and sometimes the very presence of women. Turning our backs on that insight is an option, of course, but it is an option like teaching children the world is flat.

Casey Miller & Kate Swift

Casey Miller and Kate Swift have been advocating for gender-inclusive language since the early 1970s, when they wrote the essay, “Desexing the English Language.” Their intent in The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing was “to give people the background, to make them aware of what was happening right underneath their noses… we didn’t want to tell people, Do This or Don’t Do That!” Due in large part to their work on the topic, by 1980 when The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing was written the movement supporting non-sexist language was gaining traction.

Nearly 20 years after its publication, the Handbook was still considered the standard reference book on how to avoid degrading women with words. It is used as an example of unbiased review on the topic of gendered and sexist language.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Change and Resistance to Change

1. Man as a False Generic
… Historical Background
… Alternatives to ‘Generic’ Man
Man in Compounds
… Fathers, Brothers and BOMFOG

2. The Pronoun Problem
… Historical Background
… Solving the Problem
… The Ubiquitous Male Animal
… A New Generic Pronoun?

3. Generalizations
… Assigning Gender to Gender-Neutral Terms
… Linguistic Abuse of Wives
… Gratuitous Modifiers
… Sports Reporting
… Personification

4. Seeing Women and Girls as People
… Masculinity, Femininity and Other Sex-Linked Descriptions
… Girls, Ladies, Females, Women
… Women and Work

5. Parallel Treatment
… Women and Men
… Man and Wife
… Religious Language
… Double Standars
… Categories
… Order
… Names and Titles
… The Social Titles Mrs, Miss and Ms
… Salutations in Letters

6. A Few More Words
… Blond/Blonde and Similar Imports
… Esp.
… Fellow
… ‘Feminine’ Suffixes
… Feminist
… Hero, Heroine
… Madam
… Maiden
… Master
… Midwife
… Old Wives’ Tale
… Person
… Suffragist, Suffragette
… Tomboy
… Women’s Liberation

A Brief Thesaurus
Maxims Maximized