[rfc-i] Thread for gender-neutral language in RFCs

Brian E Carpenter brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com
Mon Jun 30 13:59:17 PDT 2014


I think it's a given that RFCs should be gender-neutral, and
there is a legitimate style guide issue about the most appropriate
form of words. As far as I can see there are a number of alternatives:

1. Disclaimer text stating that the use of the words "he", "him", "his"
(or "she", "her(s)") refers to persons of either sex.

2. Always give the alternatives "he or she", "his or her" etc. (or
the other way round...)

3. "he/she"

4. "s/he"

5. "(s)he"

6. "they" (which can lead to grammatical stupidities).

7. My mother was a primary school teacher. She would often
refer to a child as "it".

8. Best, in my view, is avoidance. Always say "The operator"
or "the programmer" or "the user".

   Brian


On 01/07/2014 03:22, Heather Flanagan (RFC Series Editor) wrote:
> If folks would like to discuss gender neutral language in RFCs and
> discussions about RFCs, that's fine.  Here's a thread to get the
> discussion out of the plain text draft comments, however, and advice
> from the Chicago Manual of Style:
> 
> 5.221
> Maintaining credibility.
> Discussions of bias-free language--language that is neither sexist nor
> suggestive of other conscious or subconscious prejudices--have a way of
> descending quickly into politics.  But there is a way to avoid the
> political quagmire: if we focus solely on maintaining credibility with a
> wide readership, the argument for eliminating bias from published works
> becomes much simpler.  Biased language that is not central to the
> meaning of a work distracts readers, and in their eyes the work is less
> credible.  Few texts warrant the deliberate display of linguistic
> biases.  Nor is it idea, however, to call attention to the supposed
> absence of linguistic biases, since this will also distract readers and
> weaken credibility.
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