Certainly nothing political or ideological, but I've have edited questions and answers on occasions to be gender-neutral as I've seen or picked up at some other SE sites (There might be some policy for this but I wouldn't know) when it makes unnecessary gender implications. (e.g. The sort of thing assuming that males have to be pilots and females have to be flight attendants, which is certainly not true).

I then read Ralph J's answer (which I have no objections about) which again implies a gender I got to wonder if there is some policy about it. It recollects a real story so it has real characters, but then again does it add to the quality of the answer? Objectively speaking it should not be of any importance, the question is about Flight Attendants becoming pilots.

In this case it's breaking stereotypes so I don't think it's bad or anything, but it still got me wondering what other people were thinking on this topic. It would be nice to have some ideas when this comes up, as I suspect it will sooner or later.

When is it appropriate to format a question to not imply a gender and likewise when is it not?


1 Answer 1


The guiding principle should always be to respect the intent of the author. If you want to make your questions and answers gender-neutral, go ahead. But SE sites don't have a style guide, on this or other questions of writing style, so it's not appropriate to edit others' posts to change their individual decisions of what pronouns to use.

This follows the same rule that we apply about other variations in how we use language, such as regional spelling variations (colour vs. color). Even if the original post just looks wrong to you, there's a strong chance that your edit will look wrong to the author. Although both the mainstream options (using "he" for unknown or hypothetical people whose gender isn't under discussion, or using singular "they") have a lot of history behind them and are arguably correct, many people have a strong preference for one or the other, and would not want what they see as wrong words put into their mouth.

I think there's one exception to this rule: if someone's post has misgendered a particular individual, it's reasonable to correct it. Generally, I'd expect a comment would be more helpful than an edit in this case, to let the author know they made a mistake.


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