Most texts I read on linguistics and translation studies seem to use gender-neutral language (e.g. 'he or she/his or her', 'they/their'for people of unknown gender). Is this the dominant trend for academic writing in general (or even for the fields I mention)? If so, when did it start?

I'd really appreciate it if someone could point me to some published research on this topic.

Edited to add: My question is different from 'Is there a correct gender-neutral, singular pronoun (“his” versus “her” versus “their”)?' in that it does not seek a prescriptive answer (a recommendation on how to write), but rather a descriptive one (a reference to a survey on how language is actually being used in the fields I mentioned).

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    No matter which you pick, someone will hate it. Get the style guide for your target market and conform to that. In industry, the slowly developing convention is either * avoid personal pronouns entirely and speak about operations on and by the system, or * use specific hypothetical individuals for each example, roughly alternating genders, and use the appropriate pronoun, or * discuss how you yourself would/did behave ("I" is genderless), or * discuss how your team would/did behave ("we" is genderless), or * a mix of these.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 21:48

2 Answers 2


I think the gender-neutral approach has become more common as writers move away from passive voice and 'one may' type constructions.

The Conscious Style Guide digests several articles about this issue (and other inclusive language topics): http://consciousstyleguide.com/gender-sexuality/


The Chicago Manual of Style, which is used by academics in some social science and most history journals in the USA, says, on the subject of pronouns,

See 5.220: “He or she. To avoid sexist language, many writers use this alternative phrasing (in place of the generic he). Use it sparingly—preferably after exhausting all the less obtrusive methods of achieving gender neutrality. In any event, he or she is much preferable to he/she, s/he, (s)he, and the like.”

In addition, the CMOS 15th Edition notes

A good writer can usually recast the sentence to eliminate the need for any personal pronoun at all (p. 157)

The APA (American Psychological Association) often used for psychology, sociology, business, economics, nursing, social work, and criminology disagrees and advises not to use "he or she," "she or he," "he/she," "(s)he," "s/he," or alternating between "he" and "she" (according to Purdue's Online Writing Lab–I don't own this manual).

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