I wrote this directly from the source, without making any changes.

The source is my favourite book ever, my Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary the sisth edition of 2000, Oxford University Press – page 559.

Ways of talking about men and women

When you are writing or speaking English it is important to use language that includes both men and women equally. Some people may be very offended if you do not.

The human race

Man and mankind have traditionally been used to mean ‘all men and women’. Many people now prefer to use humanity, the human race, human beings or people.


The suffix -ess is names of occupations such as actress, hostess and waitress shows that the person doing that job is a woman. Many people now avoid these. Instead you can use actor or host, (although actress and hostess are still very common) or a neutral word, such as server for waiter and waitress.

Neutral words like assistant, worker, person or officers are now often used instead of man or woman in the names of jobs. For example, you can use police officers instead of policeman or policewoman, and spokesperson instead of spokesman or spokeswoman. Neutral words are very common in newspapers, on television and radio and in official writing, in both British English and American English.

When talking about jobs that are traditionally done by other sex, some people say: a male secretary/nurse/model (NOT man) or a woman/female doctor/barrister/driver. However this is now not usually used unless you need to emphasize which sex the person is, or it is still unusual for the job to be done by a man/woman: My daughter prefers to see a woman doctor; They have a male nanny for their kids; a female racing driver.


He used to be considered to cover both men and women: Everyone needs to feel he is loved, but this is now not acceptable. Instead, after everybody, everyone, anybody, anyone, somebody, someone etc. one of the plural pronouns they, them, and their is often used: Does everybody know what they want?; Somebody’s left their coats here; I hope nobody’s forgotten to bring their passport with them.

Some people prefer to use he or she, his or her or him or her in speech or writing: If in doubt, ask your doctor. He/she can give you more information. (You may find that some writers just use ‘she’.) These uses can seem awkward when they are used a lot. It is better to try to change the sentence, using a plural noun. Instead of saying: A baby cries when he or she is tired you can say babies cry when they are tired.


About Putri Sarinande

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