Gender-Free Legal Writing: Managing the Personal Pronouns

The vast majority of laws apply to persons of all kinds, and most words used to designate a person who has a particular legal status are not concerned with the characteristics of sex or artificiality. Where a statement of any complexity is made about a person, the maker of the statement may face decisions about how further references should be framed. This may pose no problem if the maker can appropriately use any of the pronouns: he, she, him, her, his, hers, himself, herself, it, its, or itself. The use of these pronouns is appropriate when the statement can only apply to a particular sex or kind of person. Proper usage becomes more problematic when the person has no characteristics that dictate the use of particular pronouns. This project suggests a style of legal writing that is “gender-free”-one that avoids the use of pronouns entirely. It explores a number of techniques that may be used in the creation of documents that are free of gender-specific pronouns. It is intended to serve three functions. The first is to convince those who entertain doubts that it is possible to write in this way without significant distortion or loss of content. The second is to serve as a guide to those who require instruction in this area. The third is to provide a source book with answers for writers who currently adhere to a gender-free style, but encounter specific problems.

Keywords: legal writing and research, gender issues, women

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