PUrdue University’s online writing lab has quietly, but dramatically, changed its recommendations on ‘sexist language’ days after it came under fire for telling the general public to refrain from writing. use the word “man” when writing.
As the Washington Examiner‘s Red Alert Politics reported that Purdue OWL first amended the guidelines in early February to state that “although man in its original sense has the dual meaning of adult human and adult man, its meaning has become so closely identified with adult male that the generic use of MAN and other words with masculine markers should be avoided.
Purdue OWL recommended that editors replace “humanity” with “humanity”, “man-made” with “synthetic or machine-made”, and avoid using professional terms that include the “-man” suffix. such as postman, congressman, policeman, etc. and firefighter. Notably, the website also warned at the time that “writing in a gender-neutral and non-biased manner is both ethically sound and effective.”
This language has since been revised to remove the word “sexist” and more simply states that “gender-free writing is healthy and effective”.
There will be no official statement on the website revisions, according to Brian Zink, senior director of news and information at Purdue University, but changes to the introductory language have been made to make it “less critical and prescriptive”.
Purdue OWL also added the recommendation in its recent review that writers “consult their community professional or disciplinary standards” to ensure they avoid gendered language.
Referencing the National Council for the Teaching of English and other style manuals, Purdue OWL also noted that these guides include “similar recommendations on the inclusive use of language in writing”, but that this is “detailed behind the paywalls”.
The Purdue OWL site surpassed 410 million page views in 2016, a 30% increase in traffic. Generally considered an authoritative, free, and non-politicized source of information for writing and citation guidelines, Purdue OWL is frequented by college and graduate students, professionals, and anyone seeking writing advice.
Kate Hardiman is pursuing a master’s degree in education at Notre Dame University and teaches English and religion at a Chicago high school.