Are Judges Using Gender-Neutral Language?


Are judges using gender-neutral language in their opinions? My recent study showed that they are. I used 1965 as a benchmark year because it predated twentieth-century feminists' call for gender-neutral language. I then compared U.S. Court of Appeals decisions from that year with those from 2006, and found a statistically robust increase in the use of gender-neutral pronoun pairs (such as "he or she.") For my draft article reporting the study, see .

One cause of gender bias in English is the generic "he"-the practice of using masculine pronouns to supposedly represent both males and females, as in the sentence "A lawyer should file his brief on time." Readers of my study may be surprised to learn that generic masculine pronouns are a relatively recent innovation in English, dating back to male grammarians' decrees in the eighteenth century.

                                                          --The Word Aficionado