Procedure 20-3 - Guidelines for Gender Parity in University Texts

Date effective: 1991-05-06

Authorized by: Secretary of the University



  • a) The masculine gender should not be used to refer to both men and women.
  • b) The use of parentheses, slashes and hyphens to isolate the feminine gender (ex.: his/her, his(her)) should be avoided.


  • a) Pronouns and Possessive Adjectives

    To avoid the problem of gender-specific pronouns and possessiveadjectives ("he" and "she"; "his" and "her";), the followingalternatives are available:

        1) Use of plural nouns and pronouns

    e.g. A staff member can use his I.D. card to enter the sports facilities --- Staff members can use their I.D. cards...

        2) Replacement of possessive adjectives with articles

    e.g. An employee must advise his supervisor in case of emergency --- An employee must advise the supervisor...

        3) Use of both possessive adjectives, linked by "or". Their order should be varied in lengthy texts.

    e.g. Each student must contact his thesis supervisor --- Each student must contact his or her..., or her or his...

        4) Elimination of the pronoun (neutral expression)

    e.g. Each student is expected to try as hard as she can --- Each student is expected to try as hard as possible.

        5) Use of both pronouns, linked by "or"

    e.g. If a student fails an exam, he must... --- If a student fails an exam, he or she must...

        6) Direct address to the reader (in more personal or promotional texts)

    e.g. If he participates regularly in residence activities, the student will adapt more quickly --- If you participate..., you will adapt...

        7) Use of genderless nouns or phrases

    e.g. A chairman of a department should also speak his mind during promotion hearings --- A chairperson (or department head) should also speak out (or "express opinions") during...

  • b) Titles and Terms: Suggestions

    Titles and terms with the prefix or suffix "man" should be replacedby gender-free terms and titles. Below is a list of examples.

busboytable attendant
businessmanbusiness executive, business people (plural)
cameramancamera operator
chairmanchairperson, chair, head, director
craftsmanartisan, craftsperson
draftsmandrafter, draftsperson
maiden namebirth name
mailmanletter carrier, postal worker
man hourswork hours, staff hours
mankindhumanity, the human race, humankind
man-madeartificial, synthetic, manufactured (the "man" in "manufactured" refers to the latin word "manus", meaning hand)
manpowerwork force, workers, personnel, staff, human resources
middlemanintermediary, wholesaler (business), go between
patrolmanpatroller, patrol officer
repairmanrepairer, repair technician
salesmansalesperson, sales representative, sales clerk
spokesmanrepresentative, spokesperson
sportsmanshipfair play


  • a) It is best not to refer to the marital status of women unless it is specified by the addressee.
  • b) For replies to external letters, the sex or statusspecified by the originator is used of course. Should this informationbe lacking, the letter can be addressed without reference to sex orstatus, for example
        R.S. Jones

    6 Main St.

    Ottawa, Ontario

    As for the salutation, it can read in one of two ways:

      Dear R.S. Jones: or Dear Sir or Madam:
  • c) For correspondence with a person whose sex, status or name are unknown, "Dear Sir or Madam:" is used.
  • d) In the address of a letter, the form "Mr. and Mrs. LarrySmith" should be avoided, even though certain experts maintain thatthis usage is still proper etiquette. Preferable forms would be:
      "Larry and Julie Smith" or "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"
        NOTE: In the province of Quebec, and more and morefrequently outside this province, women no longer take the name oftheir husband. A letter to both wife and husband in this case bearsboth their names.

    e.g. Marie Davidson and Marc Shuster.

Published May 6, 1991

(Office of the Secretary)

Back to top