The word "workmanlike" and phrase "workmanlike manner" appear frequently in contract terms, but are obviously gendered. For example:

The services will be performed in a professional and workmanlike manner.

Is there a gender-neutral term that is a suitable substitute?

To clarify, by "suitable", I'm looking for indication that a proposed substitute would be understood to carry the same meaning in the context of a contract. Synonym-search does not answer that.

  • 6
    In a legal setting, the meaning of words is informed by precedent. Use anything else at your clients' peril.
    – remarkl
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 20:33
  • 3
    "Professional and workmanlike" looks like a legal doublet there, which means you should be able to just use "professional" on its own without changing the meaning.
    – 1006a
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 0:43
  • 2
    If you're looking for a legal answer (which seems to be the only answer you'll definitively accept, since you've ruled out synonyms and haven't provided the legal definition of workmanlike), then this would be better asked at Law.SE. If asking here, you're not going to get exactly what you want. (Unless there happens to be a lawyer following this discussion who actually knows the answer.) Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 3:28
  • 6
    Words like workmanship and craftsmanship are no more “gendered” terms than are mankind and humanity.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 5:55
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    You can't switch out those words in a legal context because of the precedents that are attached. Their meaning has been established in court. Your substitute won't bring that with it.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 13:35

3 Answers 3


As remarkl says, in legal contexts the meaning of words has been defined by precedent. Find out how that word has been defined in the jurisdiction in question, and then use that definition instead of the adjective, e.g. as work of this nature is customarily done by other skilled contractors in the community.


I have been using "professional" or "efficient" in place of "workmanlike" for at least 20 years. Contract attorney here.


In practice, if you ever need to sue for relief because the party did not live up to this provision of the contract, you are going to spend a lot of time (and therefore money) arguing over what exactly the standard means. The term workmanlike manner has a lot of case law giving it definition (see also here), so even though it is sexist (and also vague), you have a much better idea of what you are getting into by using it that by using something else.1

Black's law dictionary suggests, indirectly through its definition of spondeo, that you could use skillful instead of workmanlike, but you always take some risk when you do not use the standard term in a legal setting. That is why lawyers still use Latin phrases.

Other sources suggest you add diligent and careful as well:

The services will be performed in a careful, diligent, professional, and skillful manner.

1. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice

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