😟 Gender cues

Word component provokes a gendered mental image

To show you want all genders to be seen and valued, choose gender-neutral expressions.

Illustration: One person says,

Basic Example

Advanced Example

Someone glares at a user manual at the office. Shuttles whizz around a man-made mothership in our latest ebook read, and a foreman talks to his errant employee man-to-man. All of these scenes, we are taught, are free of gender cues. But in the movies inside our heads, we cast a single gender. And because most gender cues are male, we cast men. Other genders stay invisible. By using gender-neutral language, you signal that everyone deserves to be seen.


We need to request more personnel, and fast: This job will take at least 300 labor hours.


We need to request more manpower, and fast: This job will take at least 300 man-hours.

Doesn't resonate with

  • Everyone who identifies as a woman
  • People in the LGBTQIA+ community

Dig deeper

Gender bias and stereotypes are deeply ingrained in how we think and speak. That’s why gender cues hide in expressions and imagery we use every day. While female gender cues do exist, such as mother lode or sister ship, most are male. Male gender cues become even more effective when they frame a historically male-dominated workplace as a male space or refer to traits traditionally seen as male.
Masculine generic nouns and the male generic pronoun he in their wake are essential building blocks for gender cues. On their own, masculine generics are easy to replace with more inclusive alternatives. Neutralizing masculine generics hiding in compound nouns, common expressions, and cultural references can be tricker. In some cases, it takes getting comfortable with going where no one has gone before. Linguistically speaking, of course.

In other words