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GLSEN, an education organization that advocates for policies designed to protect LGBTQ students and students of marginalized identities, advised defaulting to gender-neutral language such as “friends,” “folks,” “all” or “y’all” rather than “brothers and sisters” or “guys,” “ladies,” “ma’am” or “sir.”

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Gendered language creeps into work communication in other insidious ways. Think about how you describe colleagues you don’t know. Do you default to “that guy” or “that woman?” GLSEN’s guide suggested that when you have not been introduced to people and don’t know their pronouns or gender identity, use descriptive language such as, “Can you give this paper to the person across the room with the white T-shirt and short brown hair?”

Using gender-neutral language is not about using “he” or “she” equally but asking yourself, “Why are we using he or she at all? Couldn’t we just be using ‘they’?” Jeffers said.

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