Grammatically correct – or politically correct?
I always thought that expressing oneself clearly and concisely is the No.1 priority in a professional environment.
I was wrong.
Today, everybody is obsessed with gender equality. These confusing “he or she,” “he/she,” or the incredible “s/he” and singular “they” are now inserted everywhere. Like in this great example of verbal gender-affirmation surgery:
“Prepare to watch a charging bull stop in his or her tracks with a confused look on their face.”
When I try to visualize, well, them, my mood improves almost instantly.
Just alternating ‘he’ and ‘she’ is not a good solution either because it is often distracting or misleading. Applying gender equality in a negative context can get you in hot water:
“A policeman cannot just pick anybody randomly and put her in jail as a suspect.”
To make things worse, the above example implies that the policeman was male. Not good; you should say “police officer.”
Despite the obvious problems, weeding out gender-biased words and expressions becomes something like a religion for many concerned individuals.
For example, according to the new Princeton University gender-neutral guidelines, we do not say “mankind”. It is “humanity” now. I would argue that leaving the “man” in the middle of “humanity” is an obvious oversight, and this guideline will have to be updated soon.
My analysis of numerous “trending” articles on LinkedIn and some other popular sites identified the following surprises:
1. Posts and articles that religiously follow the gender equality rules contain consistently more typos, errors and mistakes than “gender-biased” texts.
2. Although the articles guilty of gender biased incorrectness have almost no punctuation and grammar mistakes, they contain numerous spelling irregularities. The most typical are ‘colour’, ‘behaviour’, ’organisation’, ‘theatre’.
3. Authors who make less grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes usually are indifferent to rules and guidelines commonly known as “political correctness.” Generally, they prefer to just be polite with everyone.
When you spend less time figuring out what’s politically correct, you may have more time and attention left for being polite, and just treat everyone with respect.
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