Don’t Get Stuck in a Time Tunnel
Recently, I attended a meeting of a proactive community group. We were to do an outreach to find some prospective candidates for important positions and portfolios. The letter had been prepared for the larger community, and an elder in the group proof read the letter. His critique was to change the term “their” to the term “he/she” , as was his experience. The letter was then forwarded to me.
I received the proof read letter and viewed the “correction” within. I gasped. I sputtered. I knew something had gone awry. The “proofer” (sic) was using communication protocol that went beck 25 years, and here I am stuck in the second decade of the 21st century. But what was it? What was bothering me? There it was…the words “their” and “he/she”!
I hadn’t considered that pronouns would elicit such importance in society today. Alas, there it was staring at me. Stark naked! The letter would eliminate a good segment and important part of our community. The Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Trans-sexual, Queer + (LBGTQ+) segment of society that may not only be overlooked, but could be excluded by such pronouns. The letter may not only be discounting, but perceptively dismissive.
I recalled university days, and the importance of the American Psychological Association (Writing) Style Manual (APA Style) and then, like a mirage on the horizon the Chicago (Writing) Style Manual came galloping through the sunset. Invaluable, anti-pretentious, and preventative by nature these tombs dropped in front of me like manna from the sky.
Use It or Lose It
Writing style manuals are critical to not just our respective professions, like social media, consulting, psychology, sales,journalist, media, writing, small business, government, etc., but helps to keep us up to date, and not “dated”, and communicativly correct for both the greater society and our client base. This is if I would like to appear that I may know what I am saying. Now I do. These manuals, as noted above, inclusive of the newly appreciated contributions for social media by organizations and media (Cohen, 2012), keeps your blog writing accurate and reflective of our society right outside your window.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/GPO-STYLEMANUAL-2016-ABOUT.pdf USA Government Style manual for Federal Government Publishing.
I now approached our group. I layed it out on the table and stated at the term “their” is an all inclusive term, where the wording “he/she” remains exclusive. Gasps of folly and embarrassment followed. The APA, as a note, dropped the “he/she” term in 2005, and not only cited the above argument, but pointed that “he/she” becomes tedious in an academic paper. (APA Guidelines, https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/guidelines.aspx).The unintended trap-FOILED!
As Cohen quotes “A style guide can be that “second thought” assuring us our content is appropriate and consistent”. (Cohen, 2012).
It is tough to be a hero, albeit a micro one.
I approached some members of the LBGTQ+ local community to update them on our search for people for our community group. I had mentioned the deliberate, but minor, adjustment to the language used in our communcations and newsletters. They were delighted at the fact and posted it to their respective Facebook site. Appreciative as I was, I was not aware of the enthusiasm that had generated nor newer volunteers and clients that would generate. Now I use it. As an influencer outreach their blogging and Facebook brought their community to us (Patel, 2018).
We paid attention, we engaged our group and who knew I’d ever tell this story. Our brand’s credibility through the language we used and our follow up through engagement (as I now know it) created success. Writing style manuals was a crucial part of being relevant to our volunteers and clients, and I subscribe to this vigilance.
As quoted by Massengill, ” DO write and rewrite and write and rewrite and write and rewrite…” (Massengill, John, March 10, 2018).
It helps one think, think, think and use professional language and client’s respect.
Patrick Meagher is an on-line student enrolled in Social Media at Algonquin College through Ontario Learn.
Practice Guidelines for LGB Clients
Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients
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Avoiding Heterosexual Bias in Language
September 1991, Volume 46, Issue No. 9, 973-974
Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns
American Psychological Association
©1991 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Esther Rothblum, Department of Psychology, John Dewey Hall, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 5405.