Gender-Free Legal Writing Guidelines

Gender-Free Legal Writing Guidelines

 Where a writer must frame a passage that is free of gender-specific pronouns several approaches may be open. It is not possible to set out any universal rules for selecting which of the available techniques should be selected. The preferences of the individual writer and the context in which the passage occurs must dictate the final choice. Still, it is possible to identify certain techniques as being superior to others in most cases. A group of flexible guidelines are set out below that may assist the writer in making an appropriate choice.

1. A solution based on revising the sentence structure is usually preferable to a generic solution.

2. As between available structural solutions:

(a) eliminating a possessive or reference back is preferable to retaining it but dealing with it in a gender-free manner, and

(b) a solution that uses the active voice is preferable to one that uses the passive voice.

3. “Generic solutions” should be adopted in the following order of preference:

(a) Draft in the third person plural form

(b) Identify the performer a second time

(c) Use the “we/us/our/ourselves” or the “you/your/yourself” formulation

(d) Use the “he or she” or the “him/ his or her” formulation.

Taken from: Gender Free Legal Writing: Managing the Personal Pronouns, British Columbia Law Institute (July 1998)