Suggestions For Using Non-Discriminatory Language -- By: Fran Hiebert

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 06:3 (Summer 1992)
Article: Suggestions For Using Non-Discriminatory Language
Author: Fran Hiebert

Suggestions For Using Non-Discriminatory Language

Fran Hiebert

Fuller Theological Seminary

This guide was developed by Fran Hiebert, Director for the Office of Women’s Concerns, on behalf of the Fuller Community in 1984. It is reprinted by permission.


The Joint Faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary has adopted a statement recommending the use of non-discriminatory language by all members of the Seminary community. This is consistent with the clear commitment of the Seminary to the full equality of women and men and to the training of women as equal partners with men for all areas of Christian ministry.

It is recognized by the faculty that the very structure of the English language causes problems to those who wish to be non-sexist in their communication. These problems are rather deeply rooted in the intricate interplay between language and culture. As culture changes, however, it is possible for language to change and to develop into a structure that is more consistent with new perceptions and paradigms. For example, because it is no longer assumed that the male alone is the true human ideal, it was deemed necessary by the faculty to drop the usage of “man” and “mankind” as generic terms and to use words like “human” and “humankind” in the Fuller Statement of Faith.

Various members of the faculty and student body have made significant contributions to the understanding of the sexism inherent in the traditional use of the English language. In order to build on their efforts and in response to the request of the faculty, the Office for Women’s Concerns has prepared this booklet as an aid to the use of non-discriminatory language. These suggestions have been taken in part from A Resource Guide for Women in Seminary, produced by the Task Force on Women in Theological Education of the National Council of Churches; from All May be One, prepared by the Task Force on Women, Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area; and from Guidelines for Equal Treatment of the Sexes in McGraw-Hill Book Company Publications.

Generic Usage

There are many substitutes which may be used in the generic sense for the words “man,” “mankind,” and other words that now have an exclusively male connotation. Among these are: humanity, humankind, human beings, humans, persons, people, all, and everyone.

The Troublesome Pronouns

The English language lacks an inclusive third-person singular pronoun that signifies either male or female except for the more formal “one.” The following are suggestions about solving pronoun problems using as an example the phrase, “A man shows his faith in God by...”

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