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Often I come across the term "female author" rather than "authoress". Which is the correct usage? "Female author" sounds wrong to me as other words that end in "-or" take a sex.

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It's grammatical gender. Sorry, no link for grammatical sex, because I don't want this comment to get flagged. –  RegDwigнt Apr 28 '11 at 21:47
    
i too take it as old fashioned usage....there has been a lot of modifications made in the use of some words... –  user22542 Jun 19 '12 at 2:33
    
Just say "author". Unless it is important to know the gender of the author, then say "female author" or "male author". –  GEdgar Jun 19 '12 at 3:01
    
You know, in your question, "feminine author" doesn't have to be female. I'm just saying. :) –  John M. Landsberg Sep 11 '13 at 2:52
    
And as for "authoress," I see no point. But if you had a need to specify that the author of something was a woman, and you had a legitimate need to do it in immediate association with the term author, there would be nothing wrong with "female author." –  John M. Landsberg Sep 11 '13 at 2:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The term exists but it's considered "old-fashioned, sexist and patronising", as it says in my dictionary (NOAD):

-ess: suffix. Forming nouns denoting female gender.

  • ORIGIN from French -esse, via late Latin from Greek -issa.
  • USAGE The suffix -ess has been used since the Middle Ages to form nouns denoting female persons, using a neutral or a male form as the base. [...] In the late 20th century, as the role of women in society changed, some of these feminine forms became problematic and are now regarded as old-fashioned, sexist, and patronizing (e.g., poetess, authoress, editress). The ‘male’ form is increasingly being used as the ‘neutral’ form, where the gender of the person concerned is simply unspecified.

If you want a further reference also the OALD says the same thing.

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There is also a counter movement, which condemns the easy condemnation of perceived sexisms and keeps using them. –  Cerberus Apr 28 '11 at 22:06
    
There's also a movement supporting using a single, specific noun instead of an adjective+noun. Most of the people in it don't realise it's a movement, though. –  kitukwfyer Apr 28 '11 at 22:15
    
@RegDwight: I can't link it because it's the one built-in, but I've made a research and it uses the New Oxford American Dictionary. Is it ok or should I put a real link? –  Alenanno Apr 28 '11 at 22:25
    
Thanks a bunch, I think it's okay without a link (all I was saying was that the quote shouldn't be left completely unattributed). –  RegDwigнt Apr 28 '11 at 22:29
    
Great. And yeah, I'll make sure to be specific on that too from now on. –  Alenanno Apr 28 '11 at 22:36

I'd say both are acceptable, though female author is probably more common. Authoress is now a bit old fashioned, I believe; it evokes a hint of romance and high literature to me, often in an ironic sense. In most cases, there is no need to express the sex of an author outside the use of pronouns (U.G. Liness uses this technique in her latest novel...): most people would simply use author for either sex.

I think gender is a bit more modern than sex, but, again, both are fine and quite common. In grammar, however, it is now nearly always gender.

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This is surely the same as the Female Actor or Actress question.

If you must specify the sex of the writer, then either is OK as far as I can see (although "authoress" probably sounds quite old-fashioned to most people in a way in which "actress" doesn't). On the other hand if whether or not the person is female is not a significant issue, then why not just stick with "author"?

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protected by RegDwigнt Sep 26 '13 at 11:29

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