Monday, July 01, 2013

How about 'neither'?

Sometimes our friends at the AP forget what century we're in:

Q. When writing about a female physician, do I say female doctor/physician or woman physician/doctor. – from Grapevine, Texas on Thu, Jun 27, 2013
A. Use female as the adjective.

Your fallback rule here, kids, is "neither." If you wouldn't point out that a boy doctor (or lawyer, or bus driver, or statistician) is a boy, why does it seem necessary to get a case of the vapors over a girl doctor (or lawyer, or bus driver, or statistician)?

It's possible, under some unusual but un-rule-outable circumstances, that you might have to point out a story subject's gender. If that isn't evident from the given name,* imagine how quickly a pronoun might make things clear. Your goal, of course, is to make sure it doesn't make clear that something besides your taste in music is still stuck in the 1960s.

* Congratulations here to the NYT stylebook, whose usage examples are all Lees and Terrys and other indeterminate names.

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Blogger Danchall said...

And even in the unlikely event there's a reason to call explicit attention to the subject's gender, it's still wrong to attach that characterization to the occupation (as a label). Gender may describe the subject, but it certainly doesn't apply to the occupation.

8:31 AM, July 01, 2013  
Anonymous raYb said...

A good rule of thumb is to step back and ask, "Would I say 'male or man" whatever?" and if the answer is "no," then don't do it to the woman.

7:51 PM, July 01, 2013  
Blogger John Cowan said...

I fondly recall this sentence, quoted in the New York Times: "Marvin Mitchelson is a woman lawyer". The source's intention, I suppose, was to say that he specialized in the legal problems of (celebrity) women. Presumably the spoken stress was on woman.

12:26 PM, July 04, 2013  

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