cliquez ici pour la version française

(Disclaimer, the following article mainly concerns the French language)

Introduction

The language we use every day reflects our vision of the world, but also participates in the construction of our representations and stereotypes:

The use of the generic masculine initiates more easily the mental representation of a group of men rather than mixed, and this even if the masculine has also value of neutral in French. It thus participates in erasing all the people who are not men in our subconscious and in shaping predominantly masculine representations.

This is why, for all the people and entities who wish to make this commitment to gender equality, we present here a summary of recommendations to make our writing more inclusive.

Inclusive writing is a set of graphic and syntactic practices (median point but also use of epicene terms or feminization of job names) that allow us to assert in our way of writing an equal representation of genders. There is no strict standard on this subject and practices are still evolving rapidly. This is why the following recommendations are only proposals aimed at opening up reflection and allowing everyone to make their texts more inclusive.

Proposals

1 - To agree in gender the names of professions, functions, titles, ranks

Already well established in language today, this consists in using feminine job names when referring to a woman: professeure (teacher), autrice (author), etc...

Some of these commonly used forms are presented in the appendix, and whenever in doubt, the book “Femme j'écris ton nom” is available free of charge in pdf format on the Internet and presents the feminine form of many job names, functions and others.

Finally, many names of less socially valued professions are often gendered only in the feminine form, like “femme de ménage” (cleaning lady), “caissière” (cashier), “infirmière” (nurse), as opposed to some more valued professions which are designated by the generic masculine form like “docteur” (doctor). We therefore recommend avoiding those shortcuts by using the formulations suggested below.

2 - Stop using "Homme" (man) and "Femme" (woman) with a capital letter of deference

Prefer using formulations such as “humains” or “Humains” (humans) to designate the whole of the human race for example.

3 - Do not use the generic masculine

The midpoint is not the only way to mark both the masculine and the feminine, there are in fact many other possibilities, including:

- Alphabetical enumeration; “elles et ils” instead of “ils”, “celles et ceux” instead of “ceux”

- Use of epicene terms, i.e. whose form is independent of the gender to which they are applied such as “artiste” (artist), “membre” (member) or “camarade” (comrade)

- The use of the midpoint or alternatively, the period

- In many cases, the midpoint is not the most appropriate solution, and it is simpler to use a rephrasing or synonym. Examples are given in the appendix.

For the midpoint, the terms are then constructed as follows: word root + masculine suffix + midpoint + x for neutral + feminine suffix (+ midpoint + 's' to indicate the plural). The x for neutral is used to denote people who might prefer a grammatically neutral form, like non-binary, agender, gender-fluid, etc. A table with common examples is also attached.

It is important to note that for some people, the use of the midpoint can sometimes make it difficult to read the text. For example, for visually impaired people, screen reading software are not always adapted to read midpoints, and it might make it more difficult for a dyslexic people to read a text.

This is why we encourage avoiding the midpoint as much as possible and using it only if the other solutions are impractical.

Appendix 1: Inclusive Formulations in daily language

If the use of the midpoint or the addition of the feminine form would make the text too cumbersome, epicene terms of common formulations can be adopted. A few alterations in generic formulations already consist in the majority of the changes to be implemented and can have a great impact. Gender-neutral terms enable one to avoid gendering the speaker, but the speech can also be constructed in an epicene way as a whole. Some of these forms are called Collective Singulars and consist of a word that refers to an entire group.

Examples:
"collègue", "membre", "personnel", "partenaire" instead of "collaborateur·trice" (colleague).
"enfant", "jeune", "élève" within a school to designate students.
"personnes", "individus" referring to a group of people independently of their age, profession or context (people/individuals).
"titulaires" (owner), "bénéficiaires" (beneficiaries), "responsable" (responsible) in an administrative context.
"l'ensemble du [...]" (the entire […]), "le corps" (the staff), "l'équipe" (the team), "le groupe" (the group), "quiconque" (anyone) for general formulations.

Appendix 2: Constructions using the midpoint and neuter

Adjectives/Determiners/Pronouns/Articles

Note: we propose between curly brackets for this part a way of writing without midpoint which includes the neutral.

Demonstrative determiners

ce/cet -> ce·tte  {cet,cèx} (that/this)
Plural: ces // (those/these)
Example: Je respecte ce·tte étudiant·x·e

(I respect this student)

Demonstrative pronouns

celui -> celui·elle {cille,ceus,cellui,celleux} (the one)
Plural: ceux·elles (the ones)
Example: Ceux·elles qui sont intéressé·e·x·s à rencontrer Vetterli

(the ones interested in meeting Vetterli)

Partitive articles

du -> du·de la {di,do} (-‘s)
Plural: des (-s‘)
Example: c'est le stylo du·de la personne qui tient le café

(it’s the manager of the tea-room’s pen)

Complementary pronouns

lui -> lui·elle {ille, iel} (him, her)
Plural: elles·eux {iels, elleux, euxes} (them)
Example: c’est pour elles·eux qu’iels ont discuté avec Vetterli

(It’s for them they had a talk with Vetterli)

Defined articles

un -> un·x·e {um/o} (a)
Plural: des (eng. has no plural)
Example: un·e ami·e est venu·e me voir

(A friend came to see me)

Possessive determiners

mon/ton/son -> mon·ma/ton·ta/son·sa {maon/taon/saon} (my, your, his/her)
Plural: mes/tes/ses (my, your, his/her)
Example: Vetterli a eu une visite de son·a cousin·x·e

(Vetterli had a visit from his cousin)Possessive pronouns

mien/tien/sien -> mien·ne/tien·ne/sien·ne (mine, yours, his/hers)
Plural: mien·nes/tien·nes/sien·nes (mine, yours, his/hers)
Example: Le·la professeur·e là-bas est la mien·ne

(The teacher over there is mine)

Special mention

tout/tous ->  tout·x·e/tous·x·e/tout·x·es (touste, touxe, toustes) (all)
Example: Tout·x·es les étudiant·e·x·s sont intelligent·e·x·s

(All students are intelligent)

Words ending in masculine with:

-e, -i, -u or -t

root + ·x·e(·s)
Example :
apprenti -> apprenti·x·e/apprenti·x·e·s (apprentice/trainee)

-al

Singular -> root + ·x·e
Plural -> root + ·x·ales
Example :
local -> local·e/locaux·ales (premises)

-ef

root + ·x·fe(·s)
Example :
chef -> chef·x·fe/chef·x·fe·s (chief/boss)

-el

root + ·x·le(·s)
Example :
intellectuel -> intellectuel·x·le/intellectuel·x·le·s (an intellectual (person))

-en

root + ·x·ne(·s)
Example :
technicien -> technicien·x·ne/technicien·x·ne·s (technician)

-er

root + ·x·ère(·s)
Example :
usager -> usager·x·ère/usager·x·ère·s (passenger/user)

-if

root + ·x·ive(·s)
Example :
administratif -> administratif·ive/administratif·ive·s (administrative)

-eur

Feminine in -euse

root + ·x·euse(·s)
Example :
transporteur -> transporteur·euse/transporteur·euse·s (carrier/transporter)
(also used : Transporteureuse(s))

Feminine in -eure

root + ·x·e(·s)
Example :
ingénieur -> ingénieur·x·e/ingénieur·x·e·s (engineer)

Feminine in -rice

root + ·x·trice(·s)
Example :
acteur -> acteur·x·ice/acteur·x·ice·s (actor/actress)

(also used : Acteurice(s))

References

To further enhance your knowledge on the subject, here are some articles that served as inspiration to write this guide:

[Bilan des connaissances scientifiques actuelles sur l'écriture inclusive](https://theconversation.com/ecriture-inclusive-un-premier-bilan-de-la-controverse-147630)

L'égalité S'écrit : Guide De Rédaction Épicène , Office of Equality Between Men and Women - Bureau De L'égalité Entre Les Hommes Et Les Femmes – Canton of Vaud, 2008.

Manuel D'écriture Inclusive, Raphaël Haddad, Mots Clés, 2016.

Download link

You can download the pdf version here