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Gender-Inclusive Language Guide

SUNY Geneseo has developed the following recommendations for utilizing gender-inclusive language in official publications, announcements, forms, catalogs, websites, correspondence and documents publicizing or delivering information about the College. These recommendations also include guidance on navigating gendered speech in interpersonal interactions.

The following suggestions about gender-inclusive and gender-neutral language are intended to promote greater intentionality and accuracy, as well as contribute to an overall climate of inclusion.

  • When possible, shift to plural pronouns or the gender-neutral pronoun of they/them/their. If referring to a single person, using the nouns ‘one’ or ‘the/an individual’ are appropriate alternatives when their specific pronouns are unknown (e.g., they are in a meeting...; their email address is…; when one needs support with…; here are the resources an individual may need).
  • Use titles that do not imply gender: (i.e. chairperson or chair instead of chairman; worker instead of workman; labor or personnel instead of manpower; first-year student instead of freshman; sophomores, juniors, seniors or upper-level students instead of upperclassman).
  • In instances where an individual's name is not accompanied by a given title (e.g., Professor, Dr., Dean, Mr., Mrs., Miss), the neutral form of address "Mx." or “Ind.” (which abbreviates the word ‘individual’) is deemed appropriate. Women with PhDs are less likely to be referred to as Dr.; be thoughtful and consistent to avoid this implicit bias.
  • Avoid using binary-gendered pronouns to apply to broad groups; they do not reflect the full range of gender identities (i.e., “he or she,” “he/she,” “(s)he,” “his or hers,” “his/hers,” “him or her,” “him/her”). If at all possible use plural pronouns for broad groups (them, their, theirs) or terms such as “students,” “faculty,” “parents” or other identifiers.
  • When aiming to refer to everyone in a group, avoid references like ‘ladies and gentlemen’ or ‘men and women’ as this only includes individuals who identify along this gender binary.
  • When communicating to the wider public, such as in the alumni magazine, press releases, news articles and webpages, and where applicable, the College will be mindful of sources by asking for individuals’ pronouns, while also adhering to the general media standards and styles, including the Associated Press (AP).

Below is additional guidance on navigating gendered speech in interpersonal interactions:

  • In order to not assume one’s pronouns, it is advisable to ask them privately. A suggested way of asking would be: “My pronouns are _____; may I ask what pronouns I should use to refer to you?”. Until you know someone’s specific pronouns, it is advisable to either avoid the use of pronouns or use a neutral one (i.e., they/them/their).
  • When unclear about what name to use when referring to someone, the online campus directory can be consulted. This directory shows the name an individual goes by if they have submitted this name to the institution*, even if different from their legal name. When introducing someone in a public setting (e.g., awards event, commencement ceremony), it is recommended to ask the individual in advance for the name and pronouns they would like used in this introduction.

*Employees can communicate this information to Human Resources; students can find the process and form online.