Gender. Gender-neutral titles

    The content of these guidelines is taken from the Vives University Network’s Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing Institutional Texts, an interuniversity project in which the UPC participated with the support of the Secretariat for Universities and Research of the Government of Catalonia.


    Gender-neutral forms for referring to men and women

    • English is largely gender-neutral, so most professional categories do not distinguish between men and women. Furthermore, when you are referring to just one person, there is no need to avoid gender-marked language.

      Chairwoman Vázquez apologised for her absence.

    • However, in situations where no sex should predominate – for example, when referring to the position rather than the person occupying it – always use the neutral version(s).

      A new chairperson must be elected before the Senate's inaugural session.
      A new chair must be elected before the Senate's inaugural session.

    • Many professions which previously had only gender-specific names now have a neutral form. For example, ombudsman and ombudswoman should become ombuds officer where possible.

    • Take care when using both gender-neutral titles and they, their, themselves. In the example below, their absence could refer to either the chairperson or other committee members.

      *The chairperson apologised for their absence.

      Best practice is to avoid this construction, as below.

      The chairperson apologised for not being able to attend.

    • Avoid the few gender-marked words in English (for example, fireman, air hostess) by using the many neutral synonyms available (fire fighter, flight attendant).



    • Re-gendering means adding gender markers to words which are neutral and could describe persons of differing sex. This guide recommends that you avoid re-gendering neutral words (especially those which are more vulnerable to re-gendering because they are perceived, for one reason or another, as feminine).

      *Male nurses constitute 35% of this year's nursing graduates.
      Men constitute 35% of this year's nursing graduates.


    • Where it is necessary to show that a group includes both men and women, use distributive expressions.

      The survey obtained similar results among both male and female students.


    • Never use the suffix -ess, the prefix she-, or the formula lady + job title. Therefore manager and not *manageress, *she-mayor or *lady-mayor.


    Plural nouns

    • In English, plural nouns behave just like singular ones: only those which are gender-specific in the singular are likewise marked in the plural.

      Graduates should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony.
      Chairwomen Vázquez and Puig will offer a short press conference.


    • You can apply the same neutral forms in the plural where required.

      The meeting was moderated by two chairpersons, Mr Alemany and Ms Vázquez.


    Collective nouns

    • In Section 6.1.1 Personal pronouns, we advise pluralising most references to people. Where there are many of these, alternate plural nouns with collective nouns such as staff (↔ employees), team (↔ researchers), faculty (↔ teachers), board (↔ governors, directors), class or group (↔ students). Note that, although singular, these nouns take a plural verb.

      Research staff play a vital role in the laboratory.
      The class are requested to hand in their work by 1 May.


    Impersonal expressions

    • It is especially important to use gender-neutral expressions (for example, person or party) in templates for very common official documents where the text is aimed at a single person but will be reused for individuals of differing sex. These should be followed by they, not he or she.

      For whatever purposes it may serve and at the request of the person concerned, I issue this certificate.
      Each party must ratify the pact before it can take effect. They will then publish the text in their region's official gazette in the space of six months.