TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Sie/hir From:mpriestley -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM Date:Mon, 21 Nov 1994 15:02:06 EST
Laurie Rubin <lmr -at- SYL -dot- NJ -dot- NEC -dot- COM> writes:
>Does anyone remember the "universal language" idea that was being tossed aroun
>as becoming the "international language"? I think there was talk about it in
>the 1970s. The language even had a somewhat complicated name that has alluded
Esperanto? It is, as I remember, a compromise between several major
European languages, eg English and Spanish.
>me. Well, I don't think that language got off the preliminary think tank
It did, although it never achieved mass-market appeal. There is a world-wide
association for Esperanto speakers, with a fairly large membership. Not
enough to be in competition with English, though, as an international language.
>I can't see how something like "sie/hir" could, either! If we assume these
>names are used only for English text, I agree with Anatole that they don't
>change the bipolar use of his/her, he/she sexist thing. That is why I always
Instead of he/she, write "sie". Instead of him/her, write "hir". It does
allow for gender-neutral language that standard English usage does not
adequately support. Whether the cure is worse than the disease is another
question: it does, at least, address the problem of choosing a gender in
>try to use "the user" (for any user: male, female, monkey, alien, etc.) or
>"you" in my docs.
I also use second person, where possible. Sometimes, though, you need third-
person, and when you do, it's nice to have access to a pronoun, rather than
parrot "the user" for every reference to him or her. This is something
I write around, for now, but it can become awkward.
Just to muddy the waters a little more: although I do write to avoid gender,
I am not wholly convinced of the connection between gender use in language,
and sexism in society. There are languages in the world right now that
don't have gendered pronouns, and historically the speakers have oppressed
women just as much as (or more so than) English-speakers.
mpriestley -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
Disclaimer: speaking on my own behalf, not IBM's