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Re: Neutral language in W3C specifications

From: Tobie Langel <tobie.langel@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2020 23:58:12 +0200
Message-Id: <90734ea5-cfce-4243-93f4-0d7aaad002a2@www.fastmail.com>
To: spec-prod@w3.org
My native language is French.

Despite finding it slightly awkward at first, it didn’t take me long, nor required an exaggerated effort to adopt the singular “they” when writing or when speaking. I’m increasingly leaning on using it in all circumstances where I’m not aware of the person’s preferred pronoun, so as not to make assumptions about their gender. It’s not completely natural yet, but it’s getting there.

I’m not very concerned about this being confusing to non-native speakers. Different languages treat gender very differently already. For example French doesn’t have the equivalent of “it” or “they”, and as a result everything is gendered, including objects. A rocket is female, for example, but a plane is male. Go figure.

Additionally, our priority of constituencies is pretty clear that we shouldn’t prioritize technical purity over people. And I don’t see why this shouldn’t apply to grammar, too.

—tobie

On Wed, Jul 29, 2020, at 22:12, Sharron Rush wrote:
> +1 to Ivan. 
> 
> As long as we have gender balance in creating the use cases, I would prefer not to risk the confusion for non-native speakers. I could be persuaded to consider a case where it is explicit that the person featured in the use case/case study has proactively chosen "they" as their pronoun and then use it in that case only. 
> 
> Good thing to consider, thanks all for thoughtful consideration.
> 
> On Wed, Jul 29, 2020 at 3:05 PM Ivan Herman <ivan@w3.org> wrote:
>> 
>> 
>> >
>> > Doesn't lose anything if it becomes:
>> > 
>> > "Alex is a developer who uses SVG as part of their job..."
>> > 
>> > There are times when the gender of the person in a user story is important, but in the context of W3C I can't think of one that applies to technical standards!
>> > 
>> 
>> i must admit that for a non-native English speaker the usage of the plural form as a gender-neutral pronoun sounds extremely strange in this case. I know it is coming to the fore but I am worried it would create lots of confusion. (It is certainly a usage that goes against my own English training.)
>> 
>> Ivan
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> > 
>> > Léonie.
>> > 
>> >> [1] https://www.w3.org/TR/vc-use-cases/
>> > [2] https://github.com/w3c/idcg/issues/17
>> > 
>> >>> Denis
>> >>> 
>> >>> 
>> >>> On 7/22/20 1:21 PM, Léonie Watson wrote:
>> >>>> Denis, this is a really positive step, thank you to you and the team.
>> >>>> One suggestion - is it possible for PubRules to check for gender specific pronouns (he/she, him/her etc.) too?
>> >>>> They are rare in specifications, but do sometimes feature as part of use cases or examples.
>> >>>> Léonie.
>> >>>> On 22/07/2020 09:40, Denis Ah-Kang wrote:
>> >>>>> Dear editors and chairs,
>> >>>>> 
>> >>>>> In order to offer the best environment possible to its
>> >>>>> community, W3C is supporting the push for a more inclusive and
>> >>>>> neutral language, especially in our specifications.
>> >>>>> 
>> >>>>> In the upcoming weeks, pubrules [1] will show a warning if
>> >>>>> terms like "master", "slave", "grandfather", "sanity" or
>> >>>>> "dummy" are detected in a specification and this will also
>> >>>>> be reflected in the Manual of style [2] with a list of
>> >>>>> alternatives.
>> >>>>> Note, since it may take time for the editors to change the
>> >>>>> branch name "master" to something else, we will not flag the
>> >>>>> URLs containing that word in the first place.
>> >>>>> 
>> >>>>> Going forward, we will audit all the specification repositories
>> >>>>> and open issues if they contain problematic terms.
>> >>>>> 
>> >>>>> Let me know if you have any comments/suggestions.
>> >>>>> 
>> >>>>> Denis
>> >>>>> W3C Systems team
>> >>>>> 
>> >>>>> [1] https://www.w3.org/pubrules/
>> >>>>> [2] https://w3c.github.io/manual-of-style/
>> >>>>> 
>> >>> 
>> > 
>> > -- 
>> > Director @TetraLogical
>> > https://tetralogical.com
>> > 
>> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> *Sharron Rush* | Executive Director

> Knowbility.org: *to create a more inclusive digital world for all abilities *

> (office) 512.527.3138 x 104**
Received on Wednesday, 29 July 2020 21:59:04 UTC

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