Do you think about maintaining an inclusive tone in your language? Cultural norms are changing and linguistic norms are following suit. That’s why it is a good idea to devote some time to analysing how to use gender-neutral pronouns and non-discriminating expressions in your communication.

Gender & gender identity

Gender is a complex issue, the perception of which can differ radically from one person to the next. This is because there is a difference between biological gender and gender identity. Biological gender can also be referred to as “assigned gender”, given that it is based on our anatomy and genetics at birth. In contrast, “gender identity” is the individual’s own perception of the gender with which said individual identifies. As such, gender identity can differ from a person’s assigned gender. Experts currently believe that more than 100 different gender identities exist, of which cisgender, transgender, non-binary and gender-neutral are among the best known.

Gendering” has to do with paying attention to the significance of language in the context of gender identities and gender equality. As gender identity is a purely personal issue that the individual may express to a greater or lesser extent, there is a risk that you may misgender people through your communication. We have therefore collected a number of linguistic aspects you would do well to bear in mind in all areas of your communication – written and oral alike.

Written communication

When working with written communication, it is best to choose a gender-neutral and inclusive tone. In this way, you can avoid using words and expressions that can be viewed as prejudicial, discriminatory or derogatory.

Use gender-neutral and inclusive language

Most languages that feature grammatical gender normally take the masculine gender as the generic form. This can, however, be viewed as discriminatory against women and people who do not identify with the traditional perceptions of gender. It is therefore a good idea to use gender-neutral expressions instead. The list below presents ideas for how to rewrite texts to ensure a more inclusive tone:

  • Repeat the subject instead of using a pronoun.
  • Rewrite to include a substantification.
  • Avoid using pronouns in the sentence.
  • Use passive constructions.
  • Rewrite the sentence to use a plural rather than a singular subject.

Would you like to see an example?

Instead of writing: “Through his registration, the invitee confirms that he will be participating in the event,” you can reformulate the sentence in the plural: “Through their registration, invitees confirm that they will be participating in the event.”


If none of the methods suggested above produces a satisfactory result, you can, to an extent, include both the masculine and the feminine pronoun (“he or she”) or use both with a slash (“he/she”), although this may have an impact on the flow and legibility of your text.

  • In addition, you should be aware that persons with a non-binary gender identity may still find this offensive.

Avoid gender-specific versions of job descriptions

Many words have arisen from conventional perceptions of gender roles – “fireman”, “chairman” and “nurse”, for example. While most people will still consider these words gender-neutral, it is a good idea to show consideration by avoiding the word “Chairman” and using “Chairperson” or “President”, for instance.

The same applies to job descriptions where the development of language has produced viable alternatives to words that appear gender-specific.


Oral communication

It is not only in texts, emails and other written material that you need to be conscious of the language you use when you want to include all gender identities. There are a number of aspects of oral communication that you can focus on to make your language more inclusive.

Respect other people’s preferred pronouns

Some people find it strange to have to implement gender-neutral language. This is absolutely normal, and it is likely that you will initially make some mistakes.

Generally speaking, you should show consideration for – and, in particular, respect – other people’s preferred pronouns, or use gender-neutral expressions to ensure a non-discriminatory environment at the workplace, for example. For example, when you are talking to a group, you can choose to say “good afternoon everyone” rather than using a conventional phrase such as “good afternoon ladies and gentlemen”.

Avoid generalising

Even if you are using standardised expressions, there is a still a risk that your language may be misinterpreted as being derogatory. For this reason, it is important to avoid obsolete expressions, stereotypical gender perceptions and generalisations – no matter whom you may be talking to!

For example:

If you are not familiar with a colleague’s family, it is better to ask after the person’s “partner”, rather than “husband” or “wife”. In this way, you avoid making assumptions about other people’s personal relationships.Eksempel3_EN

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