The form preferred or used by the person being addressed or referred to should be retained if it is known. Otherwise, the following guidelines should be applied in order to ensure uniform and equal treatment of the sexes.
Dear Ms. Samuels:
Dear J. D. Simmonds:
Where the name of the addressee is not known, use the form "Dear Sir/Madam" or "Dear Madam or Sir."
Dear Members of the Rotary Club:
To the Consumer Relations Department:
To whom it may concern:
An alternative is to use the memo format and omit the salutation.
See also 10.17 Salutation or greeting.
When the names of a woman and man are mentioned together, use parallel language so that men and women are portrayed as equals:
Ensure parallel treatment of couples:
Ensure parallel treatment of work associates:
Alternate order of reference so that one sex is not always given second place:
In distribution and other lists, use alphabetical order or list according to rank.
Because English lacks a singular pronoun that signifies the non-specific "he or she," customarily the masculine pronoun has been used. The following guidelines help to avoid this usage.
The section chief is responsible for maintaining good relations with clients and ensuring that deadlines are met.
The section chief is responsible for maintaining good relations with his clients. He ensures that deadlines are met.
An employee must file a grievance within the prescribed time limit. The employee’s union representative will usually be involved at this stage of the process.
An employee must file a grievance within the prescribed time limit. His union representative will usually be involved at this stage of the process.
All responsibility centre managers must prepare their own work plans.
Each responsibility centre manager must prepare his own work plans.
the incumbent’s duties not his duties
his or her duties not his (or her) duties
Send two copies of your academic record to the Human Resources Officer.
The applicant must send two copies of his academic record to the Human Resources Officer.
Develops, implements and evaluates programs to improve information services; directs research in information resource management.
Avoid using feminine or masculine pronouns to personify animals, events, ships, etc.:
Eliminate titles and terms which suggest that a job is not typically performed by persons of either sex or that the task varies depending on whether the incumbent is a woman or a man. As far as possible, job titles should not imply that the job can be filled only by members of one sex.
Avoid using the generic man to refer to people in general and, where possible, as part of a compound:
Unless a minor is referred to or you wish to evoke refinement or high standing, use woman, not girl or lady:
All people, including women as individuals or as a group, should be treated with respect and dignity. To this end they should be depicted as living and working in a variety of circumstances and assuming a broad range of responsibilities.
Dr. and Mrs. Rolfe
Dr. Erica and Mr. John Bruce
Dr. Rolfe and his charming blonde wife Dora
Mr. John Bruce and his doctor wife
Parent and child
Mother and child
People (or Families) are suffering increasingly from the burden of taxation.
Men and their families are suffering increasingly from the burden of taxation.
Professionals, their spouses and their children
Professionals, their wives and their children
the average worker
the average wage-earner
the average working man
© Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013
TERMIUM Plus®, the Government of Canada's terminology and linguistic data bank
Writing Tools – The Canadian Style
A product of the Translation Bureau