Language tip of the week: avoiding sexist language

Posted by on March 08, 2012

In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are based on areas of English (e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc) which learners often find difficult.

To mark International Women’s Day, this week’s language tips are about how to avoid the offence that may be caused by the use of sexist language.

Ms can be used as a title for all women, whether they are married or not. Mrs is usually only used for married women who have the same family name as their husband. Miss is used as a title for unmarried women, and sometimes married women who did not change their name when they got married, but many women now consider this old-fashioned and prefer to use Ms as their title.

People sometimes say girl to refer to a young adult woman, but this use may cause offence. Avoid using girl if it would seem wrong to use boy about a young man of the same age. Do not use girl about an adult woman.

Man and mankind are sometimes used to refer to humans in general, including both men and women. However, many people think that this use suggests that women are not included, or that men are more important than women. To avoid causing offence, you can use words and expressions such as humans, human beings, people, humanity, or the human race.

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Browse the list under the ‘language tips‘ tag here on the blog for more useful language tips.

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Comments (1)
  • This was an interesting post, thank you; would love to have more tips on the same topic (use of his/her…).

    Posted by Alfie on 8th March, 2012
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