• Common challenges when using gender-sensitive language

    This section presents the most common stumbling blocks when trying to write in a gender-sensitive manner. It is designed to help you understand the issues which lead to language being gender-discriminatory so that you can recognise gender-discriminatory language when it occurs. Tip: The Practical Tools section contains a table of solutions to help you use gender-sensitive language on a day-to-day basis.

  • Policy context

    This section aims to give you a sense of the policy context behind this toolkit, and in particular the actions European organisations have taken to encourage greater use of gender-sensitive language. It is designed to help you understand the wider picture into which your work fits. Gender equality policies in the EU The European Union (EU) aims to combat stereotypes and to promote gender equality through equal treatment legislation, gender mainstreaming, and measures for the advancement of women.

  • Practical tools (checklists and summary tables)

    To ensure that you've used ‘gender-savvy’ language in your writing, try asking yourself the following questions: Do you recognise stereotypes and avoid repeating them through your language? Do you actively seek ways of being inclusive to both women and men? Does your language reflect the idea that women, men and those of a non-binary gender are independent persons of equal value, dignity, integrity and respect?

  • Key principles for inclusive language use

    You should aim to follow these principles if you wish to make your language inclusive and transformative: Recognise and challenge stereotypes. Be inclusive and avoid omission and making others invisible. Be respectful and avoid trivialisation and subordination. If you succeed in following these principles you are well on your way to becoming a user of gender-sensitive language and you should find yourself naturally following the rest of the guidance in this toolkit.

  • Choosing whether to mention gender

    You will have to decide whether to include gender explicitly on a case-by-case basis. Guiding questions for choosing between gender-neutral language and gender-sensitive language: Will mentioning gender shed light on key aspects of the issue you are discussing? If so, use gender-sensitive language. If not, use gender-neutral language. Are you referring to people in general or a specific group? If you are mentioning people in general, it may be acceptable to use gender-neutral language (in some cases), whereas if you are mentioning a specific group it is usually relevant to discuss gender.

  • Why should I ever mention gender?

    In practice it is not always easy to judge where your language falls on the inclusive/exclusive scale, so you may feel that it is safest to avoid any mention of gender altogether. Indeed, we sometimes recommend gender-neutral expressions as one way of avoiding gender-discriminatory language, i.e. language that fosters stereotypes or demeans/ignores a gender. The logic here is: if we are treating women and men as equal, gender is ‘irrelevant’ to the discussion and we should not state it explicitly.

  • Terms you need to know

    Gender-sensitive language Gender-sensitive language is gender equality made manifest through language. Gender equality in language is attained when women and men – and those who do not conform to the binary gender system – are addressed through language as persons of equal value, dignity, integrity and respect. There are number of different ways gender relationships can be expressed with accuracy, such as avoiding the use of language that refers explicitly or implicitly to only one gender and ensuring, through inclusive alternatives, the use of gender-sensitive and inclusive language.

  • First steps towards more inclusive language

    This section presents key terms you need to know in order to make your language more inclusive. It also explains why we recommend that you mention gender in certain cases. This section is designed to help you understand the key principles for using gender-sensitive language. This toolkit includes examples of three types of language that fall on an ‘inclusivity scale’.

  • Overview of the toolkit

    Language is a reflection of the attitudes, behaviours and norms within a society. It also shapes people's attitudes as to what is 'normal' and acceptable. Women play an active role in society, yet – all too often – we use language that ignores or minimises their contribution. Words matter in shaping our worldview. For example, the dominance of masculine words for general references can reflect assumptions about gender roles and influence readers [source].

  • Test your knowledge

    This section is designed to test your knowledge and understanding of some of the key lessons from the toolkit. Please select one of the following quizzes: Quiz 1: Policy document Find gender insensitive language in this example policy document. Quiz 2: Job descriptions Find gender insensitive language in sample job descriptions. Quiz 3: Legal text Find gender insensitive language in this fictional legal text.

  • Policy cycle in culture