Gender in technical documentation (and writing everywhere else perhaps)

Have you ever passed over a piece of text that said “this will really piss off your Administrator. She is likely to…” or “of course, you can give your DBA a cookie. He’ll appreciate it.”

People who are sensitive to how gender is used will generally pause in short stops there, wait a bit, reflect, and continue. Before somebody brought this up I never really realized it. I find myself doing it sometimes. Personally, I find that this is more of a nitpick than anything else (and to book authors it is).

Why is gender an issue?

Perhaps we have been moved toward gender equality so much that we are becoming hypersensitive toward single-gender selection in literature, and instead of being exclusive, we are becoming inclusive (using “s/he”, for example).

In most cases, people skate the issue by modifying their examples to use names, instead of genders (Joe, Jane, Jay, Matt, Ryan, Alice, Bob, etc).

Maybe we’re all just too sensitive. And maybe we shouldn’t open up this can of bees. (Penn and Teller)


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