To communicate in a way that is true to and respectful of a person's lived experiences, it is important that language accurately reflects the person's gender. When writing about someone, use the pronouns they prefer. If you are unsure which pronouns a
person prefers, then ask. If a person's preferred pronouns remain unknown, then use gender-neutral pronouns.
Gender and sex are not the same. Gender is social whereas sex is biological. A person's gender can align with their sex, or it can differ. Both gender and sex can exist on spectrums, neither entirely male or entirely female. Some individuals may use multiple
pronouns sets interchangeably.
Use gender-neutral terms (alums, alumni, first-year students)
Gender-neutral terms are more inclusive and representative than gendered terms. For this reason, it is preferable to use terms such as first-year students and first-year instead of freshmen or freshman. Gendered Latin nouns such as alumnus and alumna
are not commonly understood in modern English. Alum and alums (or alumni) are easily understood by most audiences.
- We welcome this year’s first-year students to campus.
- During your first year, you will adjust to camp us life.
- As a n accomplished alum, she inspires current students.
- Several alums formed successful bands while en rolled at CU Denver.
Avoid reference to gender unless it is relevant
Unnecessary or excessive references to gender can indicate bias. Historically, such usage has suggested a person’s gender is unusual in a given context, which perpetuates exclusionary practices. Examples of unnecessary, irrelevant references to
gender include female doctor and male nurse.
Do not use "his/her" or " he/she"
When gender is unknown or irrelevant, do not use "his/her" or "he/she." Using a slash this way is no longer preferred in formal writing. Use the third-person singular, or use plural to avoid this altogether.
- A student should contact their advisor for assistance.
- Students should contact their advisors for assistance.
Since 2017, AP has allowed for the use of the third-person singular. Use the singular they, them, and their when referring to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant.
- A person should enjoy their vacation.
- Each student shared their perspective.
They, them as nonbinary or transgender pronouns
It is appropriate to use they, them, and their if a person identifies as nonbinary or gender fluid. Describe the person the way they want to be described. Some people use male and female pronouns interchangeably. Some people do not use pronouns at all
and use only their names.
Though the university typically avoids using honorifics, t he title Mx. (pronounced like mix or mux ) is an acceptable, non-gendered alternative to Mr. or Ms. and should be used if the person prefers it.
Do not use gendered pronouns that contradict a person’s gender identity, particularly when writing about a transgender person’s experience prior to their transition. To avoid outing someone, ask for their permission before identifying them
as transgender. Trans is acceptable on second reference.
Demi is a nonbinary person, and they appreciate your use of their pronouns.
Mx. Luevano shared their perspective and hopes more students like them feel empowered to speak up.
List of gendered language and alternatives
- freshman, freshmen: first-year, first-years, first-year students
- alumna, alumnus: alum
- woman doctor: doctor
- spokesman: spokesperson
- actress: actor
- chairman chair: chairperson
- man power: work force, employees
Commonly misused g ender terms
- Intersex: Use people-first language (people with intersex , people born with intersex traits). Do not use hermaphrodite.
- Transgender: Avoid phrases like "she identifies as transgender" (or " he identifies as queer" or " they identify as nonbinary"). Also, avoid the term "transgender status." This language
implies these identities are a choice. Instead, use "she is transgender." Trans is acceptable on second reference. Do not use transgendered with an "ed" at the end (people are transgender, similar to being gay or lesbian—not
gayed or lesbianed).
- Nonbinary: No hyphen in nonbinary. Use third-person pronouns or the pronouns the person prefers. You can use both male and female pronouns interchangeably if that is how the person prefers their pronouns to be used.
- Gender fluid: Gender fluid refers to a person who does not have a fixed gender.
- LGBTQ +: CU Denver’s preferred term is LGBTQ+. Use the plural LGBTQ communities rather than the singular LGBTQ co mmunity to accurately reflect the plurality of experiences and identities encompassed . Do not use LGBT.
Because failures of inclusion have been internal as well as external for the many different communities loosely grouped as LGBTQ +, consider whether LGBTQ + is appropriate in the context you are writing . Investigate whether a more
specific term is appropri ate, particularly for individuals who may feel doubly minoritized within LGBTQ + communities.
- Queer: Not all members of LGBTQ communities accept the term queer, which prior to its reclamation was largely used as a pejorative. It is important to ensure that it is applicable to the individual or group to which you
are referring. If you are unsure, then ask.
Do Not Use
- Transsexual: Though the word may be acceptable in an increasingly limited scope of separate contexts, never use transvestite to refer to a person who is transgender.
- Transvestite: may be considered offensive, particularly if used to describe an individual who is transgender . Tranny is in all cases considered derogatory. Cross-dresser may be used if it is preferred by the individual, though
it should not be used to describe a person who is transgender.
- Hermaphrodite: use people with intersex, or people born with intersex traits.
- Normal: do not refer to cisgender or heterosexual people as normal as it perpetuates exclusion.
- Sexual preference: do not use as it implies queer identities are a choice.
- Sex change: use sex reassignment or gender transition.
Language is constantly changing to more accurately reflect the reality of all our experiences. If you encounter an issue which is not addressed above, look to resources such as
GLAAD Media Reference Guide for further guidance.