Appalachian State U Advises Students to Use ‘Gender Neutral Terms’ in Papers

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 6:52 pm, March 14, 2017
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Appalachian State University in western North Carolina wants students to use gender-neutral terms in their academic papers. The stated goal is inclusivity towards people of “all genders.”

The public school’s Writing Center has released a guide (via Campus Reform) on “Inclusive Language and Gender Neutral Pronoun Use,” suggesting that the pronoun “they” is an acceptable replacement for terms referring to the gender binary, like “he” or “she.”

(Good grammar begone: to clear up any confusion, students who write “they” instead of “he or she” are advised to add a disclaimer indicating they are going to use those terms, stating: “This paper uses ‘they’ as a singular third-person pronoun to be inclusive of all genders.”)

“You often see writing that uses ‘he/she’ or ‘he or she’ when the author is unsure of gender, but that still leaves out those who identify with a gender other than male/female,” states the guide, which goes on to describe “they” as an acceptable pronoun inclusive of everyone’s gender identity and preferred pronouns.

The acceptance of so-called “preferred pronouns” has been on the rise throughout college campuses in the US, where an increasing number of students now identify as “non-binary” gender. Non-binary students ask for others to refer to them as “xe,” “ze,” or variations thereof.

ASU’s guide offers two suggestions on how to make sentences “all gender-inclusive,” the first of which requires students to rephrase statements in ways that make the subject plural rather than singular, to accommodate the call for inclusivity. For example, writers should switch from writing “a student” to “students.”

A second suggestion recommends changing “he or she” to “they” and rewriting the sentences accordingly, so they’re both grammatically correct yet accommodating to the new rules. Students who choose this option are advised to include the aforementioned disclaimer informing readers of their use of gender-neutral language.

Speaking to Campus Reform, the school’s Director of Communications Megan Hayes said that the practice isn’t mandatory, and only exists to advise students on how to write their papers.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.