Commons:Use of gender neutral language

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The Commons community is committed to providing a welcoming environment. Unless there is a specific need to the contrary, official policy, guideline and help pages on Commons are expected to be written in gender neutral language. The use of gendered pronouns and other language that makes unnecessary assertions about gender should be avoided.

This policy applies only to the language of official policy, guideline and help pages on Commons. It does not apply to any talk pages or user discussion venues, even if their purpose is to provide help to users, and it does not attempt to regulate the language used in those venues by individual editors.

In some languages, avoiding gendered pronouns can be very difficult. This policy applies to text in English; pages in other languages should comply with this policy so far as is linguistically reasonable.

Examples[edit]

"If you want to use a photographer’s picture, please ask her permission first".

  • Avoid. This makes an unwarranted assumption that the photographer is identifiable as female.

"If you want to use a photographer’s picture, please ask his permission first".

  • Avoid. This makes an unwarranted assumption that the photographer is identifiable as male.

"If you want to use a photographer’s picture, please ask his or her permission first".

  • Avoid. This makes an unwarranted binary assumption that the photographer identifies as either male or female. This is considered to be non-gender neutral and can appear unwelcoming to readers who identify as neither.

"If you want to use a photographer’s picture, please ask their permission first".

  • Better, but still to be avoided if possible. This uses the "singular they" type of construction which, although it has a long history in English, is a construction that some native speakers find uncomfortable. Readers whose first language is not English may find such language more difficult to understand because of the apparent conflict between "a photographer" (singular) and "their" (normally plural).

"If you want to use a picture, please ask the photographer for permission first".

  • Best. In most cases it is possible to recast the sentence to avoid using pronouns entirely.

"If you want to use Steve McCurry’s picture, please ask his permission first".

  • Fine. Here, the pronoun “his" is being used to refer to a specific photographer who is known to be male.

Useful sources[edit]

(Not part of the policy)