Created By: DieHard on April 18, 2008
Nuked

Neutral Pronoun Writing

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Page Type:
Trope
Similar to Pronoun Trouble, but when a whole piece is written with a gender neutral slant in relation to one or more characters. Many forms of interactive fiction have to keep in mind that the player can be either gender and while there usually isn't any trouble if the narrative is referring to you directly, it can prove problematic if other characters want to talk about you. This often leads to rather circuitous, flowery language that looks incredibly out of place. This generally shows up in games where the developers were too constrained (or, perhaps, too lazy) to have the game capable of modifying the dialogue to fit either gender. This becomes especially problematic if voice work gets involved, as even just recording two versions of the dialogue that requires it could be a lot more time and storage space intensive than just simply writing in a gender neutral way. Also applies pretty frequently to Choose Your Own Adventure type books.
Examples:
  • As mentioned above, Choose Your Own Adventure books often fell victim to this. Some get around it by assuming that the reader is a particular gender (or, perhaps, excising the reader altogether and giving a generic predetermined avatar that the player vicariously lives through).
  • City of Heroes uses this... and looks pretty silly in places because of it. One particular example would be "A foolish youngster called [insert player name here] tried to stop me, but it was no contest. The nuisance was easily dispatched. If I had only known what was in store, perhaps I would have hoped to lose." Who honestly talks like that?
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • April 18, 2008
    Sikon
    Everything John Jackson Miller in the Knights Of The Old Republic comics writes about the Revanchist. That's because this character will become Revan, whose gender is selectable in the game, even though he is canonically male.
  • April 19, 2008
    Otempora
    "They" is increasingly more popular as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. Grammar Nazis might hate it, but it's a lot less unwieldy than "he or she".
  • April 19, 2008
    Sikon
    Indeed.
  • April 19, 2008
    Micah
    Bone Dance by Emma Bull manages (by virtue of being written in the first person) to avoid mentioning the main character's gender for half the book. The character turns out to be genderless.
  • April 19, 2008
    Sikon
    Which would be utterly impossible to achieve in Russian.
  • April 19, 2008
    HeartBurnKid
    This would probably be related to AFGNCAAP. In fact, the Choose Your Own Adventure thing sounds exactly like it.
  • April 19, 2008
    DieHard
    AFGNCAAP seems to just refer to the character type rather than the style of writing (plus it's pretty specific to computer Adventure games). Choose Your Own Adventure just refers specifically to the book form and doesn't seem to mention anything in particular about gender neutrality. This would basically be about the writing style in general and also allow for examples of non-adventure, non-Choose Your Own Adventure fiction.
  • April 19, 2008
    KoolKidJoe
    They do this in all the Pokemon games, even the ones where you can only choose to be male... for instance, in Gold/Silver, an NPC references the hero of the first games by calling him "a kid", not "a boy".
  • April 19, 2008
    Darktalon
    The objection to singular "they" seems confined to the internet. My mother is an English teacher and self-confessed Grammar Nazi and has no problem with it at all.
  • April 19, 2008
    Caswin
    I once had a psycho speller/grammar checker that seemed to take all gender-specific words as errors. I would write "he" in a perfectly ordinary context, and it would get green-underlined for "gender-specific designation," or something like that, with a list of alternatives like "human being." I don't know what was up with that.
  • April 19, 2008
    bluepenguin
    The original Kino No Tabi novels were written so as not to reveal the gender of the protagonist (until a certain point, anyway), although the English translations throw that entirely out the window since it's a lot harder to do in English.
  • April 19, 2008
    DieHard
    Caswin: If you're writing about something that's supposed to apply to pretty much anyone, you're technically supposed to be gender neutral. For example, the sentence "a fan of Boy Bands might find herself to be regarded as shallow by others" would be incorrect because technically, there isn't anything preventing men from liking them as well (even if it's pretty rare). I don't know if that's what this person was picking apart or if it was just some belief that all gender should be excised or something.
  • April 19, 2008
    UnknownTroper
    The Other Wiki has the requisite writeup at singular they and also demonstrates why the Grammar Nazis need to shut up about it. Gender-neutral language is a broader topic, of course.
  • April 21, 2008
    DieHard
    I think we can launch this. Since this is a pretty broad topic, I think the name of Gender Neutral Writing would cover it. Any suggestions?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=p4ukp8pb&trope=GenderNeutralWriting