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Using Inclusive Language

Using Inclusive Language in Assignments

 Humanity/ a group of human beings – Required 

Family– Optional but encouraged 

God– Optional. Openness to inclusivity is encouraged at PTS, but this is acknowledged to be part of a larger theological question. 


Old Usage (unacceptable) 

man, mankind  à

New Usage

humanity, humankind, humans, human beings, people, persons, everyone, everybody (you can use alternate words when applicable, such as the Church, household of God, family of God, Body of Christ, the Body, believers, followers, disciples, etc.)

Old Usage                                                                                    

fathers, men, brothers, brethren, brother, sons, son, the fatherless  à

New Usage

family, ancestors, ancestry, parents, brothers and sisters, siblings, children, orphans, orphan 

He, She, They, His, Hers, Their, Theirs

When you are giving hypothetical examples, current practice is to alternate between a female and a male, using female terms throughout an entire example and then male terms in the entire next example and so forth.


Firstly, any given member may have committed a murder.  Secondly, that member may have encouraged or trained another to murder in the same way.  However, this is not the whole story.  The member in question could have joined voluntarily, meaning he also committed the sin of supporting the cruel vision of the Lord’s Resistance Army.  Or, the member could have been brainwashed, which is partly the fault of the brainwasher and partly due to her own interest in the scheme.  Or, such a member could have been abducted against her will, which means that culpability for what followed may belong also to someone further back in the chain of events.  Is a prior person responsible for each further crime committed by the one he abducted, or the one he traumatized, or the one he trained, and each crime committed by each person who in turn is abducted, traumatized, or trained by the abducted?

This can be fun when you pair “she” with a role or action not often associated with feminine gender or vice versa.

Alternately, you can write “he or she,” “he/she” or “(s)he”:

Ask your professor which format he or she prefers.

Ask your professor which format he/she prefers.

Ask your professor which format (s)he prefers.

Sometimes you can avoid gender by using other wording:

Ask your professor which format is preferred.

Ask your professor which format is preferable.

Ask your professor which format to use.

Although often used in casual speech, it is incorrect grammar to write “they,” “their,” or “theirs” when you mean one person unspecified in gender.

Ask your professor which format they prefer.


There are Bible passages that portray God with traditionally masculine attributes and others that describe God with traditionally feminine attributes.

God – you can use G-d or G*d if you like.  This implies that the name of God is not to be pronounced and is beyond our description.

Father – some people who have painful father-child relationships feel alienated by this name or image, others like it because God figures as the healthy father they never had, and others like to think of God as both father and mother. Reasons for discomfort vary. Be sensitive to your audience if you want to use “Father, “he,” or “him.”  “Father” is most acceptable if you have a specific Trinitarian reason for its use.

Jesus, the Son – you can use “he” and “him” since he is a physical man.

Spirit – since the word Spirit is feminine in Hebrew and Greek, some people use “she” and “her” rather than “it” or “he.”

If you choose to refer to God as masculine, you may include a footnote to indicate that you are aware of what you are doing if you like.

You can avoid gender for God in various ways:

God created the heavens and earth, yet he knows each of us by name.  à

God created the heavens and earth, yet knows each of us by name.

The world reflects God’s glory: his handiwork is visible all around us.  à

The world reflects God’s glory: the Holy One’s handiwork is visible all around us.

The world reflects God’s glory: the handiwork of YHVH is visible all around us.

The world reflects God’s glory: this divine handiwork is visible all around us.

God gave himself up for humanity.  à

Jesus gave himself up for humanity.

God gave Jesus himself up for humanity.

God gave God’s self up for humanity.

God gave Godself up for humanity.

Another way to use inclusive language is to balance masculine, feminine, and non-gendered descriptions of God in your writing:

Father, lord, king, shepherd

Mother bear, mother hen, helper, woman in labor who bore Israel in the womb, nursing mother

Rock, fortress, hiding place

If you are not familiar with inclusive language, consider reading “Is It Okay to Call God Mother? Considering the Feminine Face of God” by Paul R. Smith, an evangelical male Baptist who explains the arguments for people who are initially uncomfortable with the idea. This is a book assigned in Dr. Sakenfeld’s course on the Old Testament, Women, and Cultural/Ecclesial Diversity.

I will use masculine pronouns to refer to God in this paper, remaining consistent with the Biblical witness (or: for theological reasons, or give your reason), but I acknowledge that God does not have a sex.

Living Together

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