As a writer, the tool I use most often is a “writing assistant” called Grammarly. I’ve been using the premium version of this software since 2016, and never had a problem until recently.
A few days ago, I was preparing to submit a short story to a magazine. As I usually do, I ran it through Grammarly first before emailing it to the editor. To my surprise, it came back with 72 errors. Since I’d run the story through Grammarly just a few weeks prior, I was surprised to see the software had found any errors, let alone 72.
When I began checking the “errors,” I found they all had to do with personal pronoun use — he, she, him, her, himself, herself, and even the words “alternate lifestyle.” Since the grammar checker had never done that before, I called Grammarly’s customer service to find out why.
The rep informed me that there had been an upgrade and that I could turn off features I didn’t want by customizing my writing style. However, to accomplish that, I had to turn off certain suggestion types.
The following is what I had to turn off to use gendered words:
- Gendered generic pronouns (Suggests gender-neutral alternatives to “he” and “she”).
- Person-first language (suggests respectful, person-first language).
- Personal pronouns in academic writing (Flags use of personal pronouns like “I” and “you”).
- Possibly biased language (Offers alternatives to outdated or biased descriptions).
- Possibly biased language (gender-related). Suggests alternatives to potentially gender-biased phrasing.
- Possibly biased language (LGBTQIA + – related) Flags LGBTQIA + – related terms that may be seen as disrespectful).
- Possibly outdated language (LGBTQIA+-related) Flags LGBTQIA + -related terms that may be seen as outdated, cynical, or not fully accepted in some contexts).
- Reclaimed language (Flags reclaimed LGBTQIA + -related terms that may be considered disrespectful in some contexts).
Personally, I feel that using “they, them, or their” instead of “he/him” or “she/her” will only confuse readers. Therefore, I refuse to use those non-gender alternatives.
The newest suggested designations “ey,” “em,” “eir,” “eirs,” and “eirself” are even worse. As my non-binary friend, Aspen, who at 70 plus years decided he was neither male nor female, says, “~” for non-Binaries.
If you would like to be gender-neutral in your writing, visit the LGBTQ+ Resource Center.
- Paying markets for writers: The Gay & Lesbian Review
- I’m Not A Woman, Gay, Or Chinese But I Write For Magazines Serving Those Readers! By Peter Garland
- Just Because I Rejected Your Manuscript Doesn’t Mean I’m a Racist, Homophobe, Anti-Semite, etc. By Angela Hoy
- Self-publishing May Be the Last Bastion of Free Speech
- Connecting with PEOPLE Helped Me Sell Books to a Book Club! by Jennifer Buck
Antaeus writes from a lakefront home in Southwest Florida. While cleaning toilets in a bar, at age nine, Antaeus wrote his first poem on heavy-duty toilet paper. Antaeus is also the author of The Prepared Citizen, a three-book series on Situational Awareness. Antaeus has also written several action-adventure, sci-fi, and humorous fantasy novels. Antaeus can now afford to use actual paper to write on.
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