I am currently preparing my first formal work for publication, which I am the sole author on. While working through final edits, I've come across a few places where I refer to myself and would prefer not to gender myself as female (eg. "the PI also presented on her research at a local event...") as I do not identify as female (non-binary), and prefer to use the pronouns ze/hir if I need to refer to myself in writing.

As this is my first publication, it feels like this may be a good opportunity to start as I wish to go on, and just go for it. But I also don't know if it'll just read as awkward, and possibly requires a disclaimer/clarifying note in institutional affiliation (eg. Author Name, University Affiliation, Department, (ze/hir) or Author Name, University Affiliation, Department; Author uses ze/hir pronouns.)

My question, therefore, is as follows. Is it appropriate to refer to oneself using gender neutral pronouns in academic writing? And if so, do I need to include a disclaimer/clarifying note somewhere?

An additional note: I've unfortunately not had a chance to discuss this with my supervisor yet. Input from others would be most appreciated!

(Note: I've read through as many similar posts as I could find and did not see any duplicates or anything that answered this question, but please do steer me towards any questions that do if relevant.)

EDIT: Thank you all for your answers. I'm in Psychology, where depending on the document, it's okay to refer to yourself in the third person. In this case, I've removed all references to myself by using the passive voice. In the future, I'm going to go for singular "they" when possible, and in submissions that deal more with identity or LGBTQ+ young people (one of my areas of research), I'll probably go with ze/hir since that's in line with my principles and the theme of the research. Unless your answer will add significantly to the value of the discussion, I think this thread is pretty complete! (other nb researchers, I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to get in touch.)


12 Answers 12


It's your decision what to write, but to my mind, adding a note trying to explain your preferred pronouns seems like it puts the emphasis on something which you probably don't want to make the focus.

I'm young enough to be fairly familiar with this stuff, but I have to be honest, the thing I'd remember after read your paper would be "Huh, I've never seen anyone write a note like that before." I don't want to suggest the way you identify is something you want to hide, but remember that your article is going to be read (hopefully) by a lot of older people or people from other cultures who have no idea what "ze" is supposed to mean, and I assume your main goal is not to educate them about that stuff.

I would encourage you to instead use "they" or "we" when referring you yourself ("the PI presented on their research" or "we presented on our research"); these might be a little awkward, but they have an established pedigree in writing, and shouldn't strike people as too out of place.

  • 64
    No need for "we presented on our research" as "I presented my research" has no gender association.
    – Walter
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 13:54
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    What if they don't use the pronoun 'I'?
    – Harrichael
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 14:39
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    @Dronz it's worthwhile to note that singular & neutral "they" has historic precedence (moreso than "default he" even), and that it's unclear why english kept singular/plural "you" but transitioned to "he/she/it/they". See this answer for more
    – Delioth
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 18:00
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    It’s entirely a matter of habit: I find singular-“they” no more awkward than other pronouns. I certainly did, a few years ago. But I got used to it. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 18:03
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    Omitting pronouns is easier than this comment chain suggests. The PI could easily present "the" research or even "this" research, for example. The narrow context of an academic paper means that general words are usually interpreted highly specifically. If I write "X presented the research" in a random context, it could mean someone else's, but in a paper it does not. I have actually scoured papers to try to get gender clues, back 30 years ago when my supervisor insisted on "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam", with remarkably little success. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:17

Let me add two cents from the perspective of non-native speaker. Your inquiry was - in my case - the first time ever that I have heard of English gender-neutral pronouns. I think I may be not the only exception and therefore your paper may become harder to understand by a broader audience. Secondly, as noted by others already, usage of those pronouns is a non-standard practice (at least in my discipline), therefore it may overshadow other qualities of your work.

However, if you wish to not stress your gender, a number of stylistic figures may be employed. I can immediatelly think of two; firstly, as others have suggested, you may resort to using pluralis modestiae (i.e. we have discovered); secondly - why not try using passive voice (the PI's research was also presented at a local event to rephrase your example).

  • 21
    As a passionate advocate of making academic literature more accessible to readers who don't speak English natively, I support your point and urge authors to think carefully about this portion of their audience. . Singular they seems to me like the best solution. It could also confuse nonnative speakers, but an intermediate student of spoken English needs to become familiar with it anyway.
    – Philip
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 19:42
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    the worst confusion "they" can cause is that there is another researcher involded, while "ze/hir" is going to cause an "wtf are they talking about"
    – Christian
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 10:30
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    This is a great point, and as a native English speaker, I have literally never seen or heard of the ze/hir pronouns used before 5 minutes ago
    – Taegost
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 19:24

My advice is to use "they/their", or none at all.

You are suggesting to use a pronoun that the general public neither understands nor accepts, and could detract from your writing. If your subject was about such concepts of sexuality and identity, then it would be most appropriate to use. But for anything else, people aren't going to know what they mean, and will be annoyed at having to look it up. In fact, it will likely be seen as a type-o before it is looked up, and then, you would likely be imagined to be the sexuality identity of the reader. And a perceived type-o lessens the credibility of the author. All of this is an unnecessary distraction.

People use gender descriptions in order to try to portray an image of the subject. Issues of transgender are more of what is going inside the mind, and less about the physical appearances, and so, using adjectives and pronouns about transgender terms will not help to build that image the writer is trying to build. Of course, using neutral-gender words will force the user to imagine a subject of a gender they will have to imagine, as I said most likely their own gender. If you are concerned about what people might imagine the gender to be, as it might change what you are trying to convey, then by all means, use gender specific words - but using terms that have not been accepted by the public will only serve to create confusion.

In your example, you can even get away with removing pronouns altogether, or using "it" in 3rd person:

  • "...the PI also presented on her research at a local event..."
  • "...the PI also presented on its research at a local event..."
  • "...the PI also presented on their research at a local event..."
  • "...the PI also presented on research at a local event..."

or even:

  • "...the local event will feature research done by the PI..."

But to the common reader:

"...the PI also presented on hir research at a local event..."

This is liable to be seen as meaning "her" instead of "hir", and using "ze" will be read like this:

"...the PI also presented on ze research at a local event..."

And here the reader is thinking you're trying to be cute with Germanesque idioms, unless I am also not using the term properly for the example. Nevertheless, new transgender terms are not uniform, as the community argues that some don't like some phrases because of the sound that implies gender. (eg, "sie" is German, sounds feminine, and means "hers" in German). Of course, only a German speaker would know this, but the fight continues.

Until the public understands these phrases, and when there is unity in the transgender community about which to use, your work is the last place to fight that battle, unless your work is itself about that battle.

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    Just a note, "ze" would be used in place of he/she/they, not his/her/their. Additionally, I would advise against suggesting "it" as a pronoun for a person, as it holds a connotation of one being not or less than human.
    – Ceshion
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 18:46
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    +1 for the focus on their identity as the PI rather than their gender.
    – Nat
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 3:18
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    Wait, what is a "type-o"? Idiosyncratic spelling of "typo"? Honest spelling mistake? What?
    – JohannesD
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 0:35
  • "... the work was presented (by the PI) at so and so event ..." Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 9:23
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    @MartinBonner Nightmare? In my language, which also uses grammatical genders it is much smaller issue than in English, because we can refer to the grammatical gender of the word "author", not to the gender of the author himself/herself/whateverself. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 9:29

Yes it is appropriate to not use gendered pronouns. As it seems you are aware, there are lots of ways to address the issue. You should follow the journal style guide, or the style guide for your field, if it addresses the issue. If not choose a style and stick with it. Be prepared for the copy editor to change the style. They may prefer the singular they, or he/she, or zir, or even rewording of sentences to avoid the issue. It is not appropriate to expect the journal to follow your exact wishes regarding style, but they should comply with your wish to avoid gendered pronouns.

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    I'm not sure I agree. Parts of this advice are almost sure to raise gender identity as an issue during the editorial process, and the context of a manuscript might not be the best place to do this. While I don't want to minimize such issues, a letter to the leadership of the journal society, a letter to the editor, a workshop, etc., seem like more appropriate venues for this -- especially when an author can use language in a manuscript that completely avoids pronouns in self references without thinking too hard about it. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 14:34
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    I would hope a reviewer, and most definitely an editor, would be able to overlook the use of a style they disagree with (especially one for which there is no guidance).
    – StrongBad
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 15:14
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    There is usually a guidance, and this area is so hot that most major publishers will have made their choices. nytimes.com/2016/04/03/magazine/whos-they.html Shows that the Washington Post has added the singular "they" while the Times has not, but expects that it will eventually happen. You can also see the listing for "he" in the Times Style sheet preview on Amazon -- which states that "preferred solutions [ to gender issues ] are those that spare the reader all traces of a writer's struggle" -- recommending plural constructions or similar approaches. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 15:54
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    The point I'm trying to make is that using a word like "hir" is almost guaranteed to raise this as an issue. If that's the goal (and it may be), that's fine. If the goal is smooth publication, this is a contraindication. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 15:57
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    @StrongBad I very doubt so: I had reviewers objecting things (e.g. certain electrical symbols, or terminology) for which standards exists, just because the standards were unknown to them. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 17:55

I do not think the use of gender neutral pronouns are a good idea, but it has less to do with appropiateness, but with attitude. The following questions will inevitably arise:

  1. Where are your priorities? Science has time constraints, sometimes very narrow ones. You must continously decide if you need to repeat experiments, make more literary research, make your paper ready and so on and so on. Now one can in fact use much of the time to draw their diagrams by hand. Let's imagine you are an excellent, perfectionist painter and you use 50% of your time to draw those diagrams. I see that spiffy graphics and I am impressed, but I am also now inclined to ask myself what the author did in the time. Even if you use regular expressions to replace all gendering, you will need to invest time to make it sound good. That leads to the next problem.

  2. Who are you writing for? The intent of a paper is communication. The results of scientific work should be transmitted as clearly and unambigously as possible. Therefore many journals have a relatively strict style guide to avoid prose (And yes, some scientists would like to write prose). Let's say a scientist encounters now your paper, the result will be that it takes longer to read and understand because of the unfamiliar structure. You can twist it as much as you like, the message is that you prioritize your personal(!) wish to be named as you like higher than the desire for scientists to read a paper as fast and fluently as possible. I do not make any judgement about this, I only point it out.

  3. How do you handle discussions and contact? What is your reason for non-gendering? Now one inevitable part of scientific endeavour is communicating with your colleagues. And even if we do not like it, our actions are speaking much about how we handle things. Each is feeling each other out, so with the given clues scientists are prone to extrapolate from the behavior how a person ticks. So you say that this non-gendering part is extremely important. The question is now: Do you have some of these attitudes?

    • zealous: You have a very, very important realization which is in fact so important that everyone must know immediately about that. And because the understanding is so crucial it must be told in epic fashion.
    • suspicious: Because you know that there are people out there who could be hostile, it is a good thing to watch out for behavior. Could that be interpreted in a hostile or discriminatory way? If you really, really look sharply, you will find out how that yes, many things could be interpreted this way. And if people are getting irritated that you weigh up every word, it is one clue that they are really hostile (This is sarcasm).
    • intolerant: One thing which is also important that you are able to view positions which you do not agree with (it is one of the most important things in science. Nothing is overlooked better than something people do not want to see).

Why I am telling this? The reason is that in heated discussions it could always happen that you wrong someone. Now an important thing is to be easy going, being not resentful and being able to accept/tolerate a viewpoint which you don't share. But people may think that you share this traits because many movements share exactly these traits.

If you are a difficult person, people will choose to avoid contact, it is in essence a self-fulfilling prophecy. So if you choose to use your pronouns, make it good with friendly behavior and assume good faith.

Some comments:

It is now pretty widely acknowledged that this kind of masculine bias should be eliminated.

Sorry, this is a fact straight out of an anglospheric filter bubble (and I doubt that even there it is universally acknowledged). Cultures do (at least currently) not widely acknowledge that what you call "masculine bias" should be eliminated.


Academia has a long history of exclusion towards non-WASP people and that behaviour is little less than someone appointing themselves Guardians of the Ivory Tower.

Jewish people have a long and strong tradition in academia and while there were discriminations and blockades, the quality and quantity of Jewish work is vastly overproportional to their population size. Could we agree that Ashkenazi are not WASPs? It is also prudent to look up history books, the Western leading role in academia is not a timeless phenomenon, see Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, China, Arabia etc.

  • I’m not particularly sure that the presence of a disproportionate amount of work by Jewish people in any way disproves that many academic organizations have engaged in racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination. You yourself mention that they were “discriminations and blockades” against Jewish people, so it doesn’t even prove a lack of discrimination against Jewish people.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 19:42
  • There are a variety of reasons for over-representation of Jews in academia despite barriers put their way (for example, a much stronger tradition of literacy than many surrounding groups). Due to small population numbers overall, over-representation of Jews isn’t excluding large numbers of people at the moment, but of course the presumptive end goal is proportional representation, so presumably the percentage of Jews will eventually decrease slightly.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 19:45
  • 1
    @Obie2.0 The claim was: "Academia has a long history of exclusion towards non-WASP people", not existence of discrimination. What irks me is first the sweeping "non-WASP" claim because Jewish students earned doctorates as far back as the 16th century in italian universities. Yes, black people and (white!) women were excluded until 19th/20th century, but non-white, academic instituitions in history also only allowed specific students, beginning with the Pythagorean school and the Musaeum Alexandria. The sentence paints a strongly biased picture. Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 22:23
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    @Obie2.0 Another thing: "but of course the presumptive end goal is proportional representation, so presumably the percentage of Jews will eventually decrease slightly". May I ask you what you mean with this sentence? If people have free career choice and Jews participate with overproportional representation, how exactly is this supposed to work? Reminder: The argument of the oppressing majority does not work because Jews definitely pass the criteria of "suppressed and persecuted minority". So why should there be proportional representation?! Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 23:48

Ze, hir, and other such words might not be within the purview of a journal's style sheet, and might be modified by page editors. I suppose it can be taken up in the galley process, but bluntly I see no advantage to letting this rise to that level.

I strongly suggest writing such references exactly how the author wants them published within the current style sheet of the journal for the least amount of problems in the process. If it's important, try to get a hold of the style sheet, but I would try writing to avoid the issue.

As such self-references should be fairly infrequent in a normal publication, judicious switches from active to passive voice so as to not require a gendered pronoun would perhaps be the easiest path.

For the specific phrase "the PI also presented on her research at a local event...", "the PI also presented at a local event..." is every bit as clear as the original phrase, and reads as less wordy.

  • 7
    Frankly, if a journal editor unilaterally removes a person's chosen pronouns, the editor is way out of line. Academia has a long history of exclusion towards non-WASP people and that behaviour is little less than someone appointing themselves Guardians of the Ivory Tower. That behaviour is at about the same level as changing all "she" and "her" to "he" and "him" because it'd just be nuts if there were women doing research.
    – E.P.
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 15:13
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    @E.P. It's not the journal editor -- who probably couldn't care less. It's the copy editor who is doing the job of the copy editor -- making sure the printed copy matches up with the journal's style sheet. The copy editor couldn't care less about gender identity, genderless pronouns, or any such thing. The copy editor cares about whether the copy matches the style sheet. This is how major publishers work, not a commentary on issues, and is fact. Feel free to DV, but you may as well argue that a US journal copy editor has no business replacing "colour" with "color". Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 15:34
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    For example, from Nature's instructions: "After acceptance, Nature's subeditors (copyeditors) ensure that the text and figures are readable and clear to those outside the field, and edit papers into Nature's house style. They pay particular attention to summary paragraphs, overall clarity, figures, figure legends and titles." Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 15:46
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    @E.P. I don't think I can be much clearer, about my NOT trying to answer with respect to social justice in any sense of the phrase. I'm not saying its right-- I'm saying that this is how copy editors work, and that the OPs action would then depend on whether the author wanted to make a manuscript submission the place to turn this into an issue or an effort to get smoothly published without hiccups. I've tried to keep my own opinions on gender language out of my answer, as I don't feel my own opinions are particularly germane. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 17:48
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    You can almost always escalate copy editing issues to above the copy editor if you have a strong opinion. For example, I've done this with copy editors adding "et. al." or removing arxiv links. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 18:08

Firstly, this is the first time in my life I come across about primary research where someone talks about oneself, much less using a third person. The usual way is to use passive voice or talk in first person "I want to thank / we found out / etc".

Secondly, the "pronouns" you refer to are a recent ideological invention and simply don't exist in the English language, so serious publications, which are usually exquisite with language, will for sure have some problems accepting made-up words, especially if they are not related to science.

  • 1
    Really? Third-person references happen a lot, actually.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 22:59
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    All words are made-up. Many words used in scientific publications have been made up quite recently; "qubit" and "blockchain", for instance, would have been unknown twenty years ago. If you object to non-binary pronouns on ideological grounds, that's your choice, but saying that they "don't exist in the English language" is meaningless. There is no official authority for the English language, only usage, and such pronouns certainly are used by some English speakers.
    – G_B
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 1:43
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    Have you read the "especially if they are not related to science part"? I don't know what this has to do with me or my thoughts. Of course you can make up technical terms and even define them, but this is not the case at all in this question. Academia is academia, it's exquisite with language. Good luck focusing on how you feel or identify, trying to impose your own words to established readers/writers and "educating" academia, especially if your words are ideologically charged. Definitely the opposite of good science, which should be zero about you and all about the research subject.
    – Pablo
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 4:55
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    @GeoffreyBrent: qubit and blockchain are of course jargon, from the fields of quantum computing and crypto-currencies. Jargon is associated with social groups, and used within such a group, but usage outside that group generally requires explanation. ze/hir is jargon from gender studies (although not yet well-established, as xe/xir is also in use apparently). Like all jargon, using it out of context is surprising, and surprises hinder communication.
    – MSalters
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 9:37
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    Then definitely we are in very different fields, because the WHOLE POINT in peer-review is that you know as little as possible about the author, and often they are double blind, so that the review is not biased. When authors are listed, I have never seen a mention to anything else than name, last name, title, and affiliation in anything I have read or reviewed in 20 years. Conflicts of interest are always self-declared and signed. Would you mind listing which fields you are talking about, just to clarify?
    – Pablo
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 8:08

First, the example you gave ("the PI also presented on her research at a local event...") sounds biographic in nature. If you're writing a short author's biography then feel free to use whatever language you wish- that space is there for you to talk about yourself. Moreover, while some people might not be familiar with non-binary pronouns, or even upset by them, their presence in a biographic section is not going to be objectionable.

If you're concerned about using such terms in the general academic text then you might be tackling the wrong problem- gendered pronouns are typically not used in academic prose either in reference to the authors or to citations. It's hard to say without having your draft in front of me, but my guess is that your best overall option would be to remove any references to a gendered pronoun or their non-binary counterparts. The first few papers I wrote had a number of gendered references, and at first I balked when my advisers told me to remove them (it's my voice, wasn't incorrect but a matter of style, etc.), but my final conclusion is that academic writing really does work better without them.

Two places you're tempted to use gendered pronouns are when talking about your own work or about others. When talking about yourself it's standard practice to cite yourself and refer to yourself as a reference. In my field the following would stick out as unusual, a little pretentious, and would violate double-blind review (if that's a concern):

In earlier work I explored topic XYZ where I concluded ABC.

Instead I might write:

Topic XYZ was examined in David (2017) which found ABC.

Similarly it's very uncommon to use gendered pronouns in reference to other works, both because most papers have multiple authors and because the usual style is to talk about the reference rather than the author.

Also, although this isn't part of your original question, I'll point out that using a non-binary pronoun to refer to someone else who prefers the binary version can be just as uncomfortable to them as the situation you're struggling with. For that reason alone it would seem unwise to use ze/hir in reference to other authors.

Lastly, you should be aware that the debate over the use of gendered pronouns is still ongoing within style organizations and in academia. In years past a sentence with implicit masculine bias such as the following would have been common and unremarkable:

The engineer must configure the system and to do so he must characterize its behavior completely.

It is now pretty widely acknowledged that this kind of masculine bias should be eliminated. There are three standard recommendations:

  1. Alternate the use of he and she (recommended by APA and Chicago styles) or potentially use he/she (not recommended, and less common in academic writing)

  2. Rewrite any gendered references to use gender neutral language (recommended by APA and Chicago), even if it makes the overall language cumbersome. E.g.

The system configuration, which requires a complete characterization of the system's behavior, must be performed by an engineer.

  1. Replace gendered references with the singular they, which is explicitly rejected by APA and Chicago, but in my experience is pretty common in academic writing. E.g.

The engineer must configure the system and to do so they must characterize its behavior completely.

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    In the 2nd last example, "[...] by an engineer, which [...]", is the usage of "which" instead of "who" intentional or it's just a typo? Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 17:48
  • @MassimoOrtolano I was intentional about it, but I should say that I'm not an expert in grammar. I can see it working as "which" or "who". If you use "which" then you're saying that the activity (configuration) requires a complete characterization, and if you use "who" you're saying that the engineer requires a complete characterization. I think that both would be correct.
    – David
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 17:51
  • I'm not a native speaker but, afaik, which in that position can only refer to the engineer and not to the action. The reason I'm pointing this out is that in this discussion about pronouns, "which" in that position might be confused for a neutral way to refer to the engineer. To refer to the action I'd instead write: "The system configuration, which requires a complete characterization of the system's behavior, must be performed by an engineer". Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 18:02
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    Sorry guys (!) but "which" refers to an inanimate thing, while "who" refers to a person. In the example, "which" is referring to "the system configuration", not the engineer. And in this example, using "who" wouldn't even refer to the engineer, as it would personify "the system configuration", and would not make sense.
    – Andrew Jay
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 12:46
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    @Wigwam You're a bit late ;-) The discussion was about a previous version of the example, which can be viewed in the edit history. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 16:54

So many tortuous issues in academic communication disappear when one shifts from writing in the passive/third person voice to active/first person. In this case, the issue arises because you are attempting to refer to yourself as if you (I/my) were in fact someone else (whether she, her, ze, or hir). In this case, as you are the sole author, the solution is simple if you write in the active first person:

I presented this research at a local event...

When you are part of a multi-author paper, the research is no longer solely yours anyway, and so constructions could be something like:

The senior author presented this research...

The senior author presented our research...

  • Are "My research was presented at a local event..." and "I presented my research at a local...." tortuous or ambiguous in any way? I found your first suggestion to be ambiguous "this research" could refer to another person's research, e.g. "I was invited to a local event and was asked to present this particular research" and the third solution hints that there is more than one author.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 10:06
  • @Mari-LouA The passive "My research was presented at a local event..." is ambiguous because it leaves open who did the presenting. Agree "I presented my research at a local...." is absolutely fine for most, but the OP's original issue is with possessive pronouns, so "I presented this..." gets around that. Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 21:20

In my experience, gendered references to authors are quite uncommon in academic writing. Situations where pronouns would naturally occur can instead be dealt with in passive voice ("the PI also presented on her research at a local event..." can probably be replaced by "this research/work was also presented at a local event").

That said, if you end up using pronouns referring to yourself, it makes perfect sense to me that you use the appropriate ones, i.e. ze/hir. This should not require any disclaimer, but you could probably add a footnote to the first occurrance explaining that this is a non-binary pronoun, if you want to explain.

I want to point out that in an international context the ability to guess the gender of an author based on their name is very limited anyway.

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    Why ze/hir instead of the centuries-old standard singular they?
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 12:25
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    @JeffE That's a question for the OP (or possibly just google). I think Arno is just trying to be respectful of hir preferences. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 12:32
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    (This is fairly off-topic, but to answer the question posed by JeffE): People prefer different gender neutral pronouns for a range of reasons. I prefer ze/hir because they sound close to she/her but are still gender neutral (and while I closely align with femininity/identify as femme, I am agender). Singular they does not have the same meaning to me. However, I'll use singular they in this paper as a compromise. I'd rather that than gender myself as "she".
    – Li.Elce
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 13:08
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    @Li.Elce why is it off-topic? Since you are asking for advice in connection with which gender pronouns to use in an academic publication, I'd say trying to understand your motivation and preferences is very much on-topic and helps people offer you the best advice possible.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 14:04

Before considering the appropriateness, I'd consider whether readers would understand what it is that you're doing.

Despite being aware of LGBT issues generally, I've never heard "ze/hir" used by anyone yet, and probably many (most?) people not living in the US/Canada(/UK?) would not catch on. They might not even understand your disclaimer, even though it's not rocket science.

On the other hand, the risk is relatively low. I mean, you could get some mean reviewer, but other than that they'd just complain about your weird English as a side-comment.


I would tell you to just go for it. There's no need to think of things as 'disclaimers', either: the lines

Author Name, University Affiliation, Department; Author uses ze/hir pronouns.

function as introductions of the author, and if your choice of pronouns is important to your identity and it impacts the reading of the text (e.g. because the text includes you using those pronouns to refer to yourself) then include them and be done with it.

Academia is already exclusionary enough with respect to people from all sorts of backgrounds and identities, and part of that exclusion is that so far there are no established conventions within academia for how issues like yours can be dealt with. However, those conventions are not going to build themselves, and we as an establishment need your input to help construct them in ways that actually reflect what the tq+ community wants to happen.

It is also pretty inevitable that if you do this you will sooner or later encounter some form of pushback, and when you do, I would say: keep at it. Explain that your chosen gender and pronouns are part of your identity and that you do not feel comfortable with other alternatives, and that a rigid style sheet that does not allow for those kinds of identities is the real-world realization of the abstract concept "this journal discriminates against non-conforming authors".

  • 9
    Academia is inclusionary to all people as long as they show merit. You can see it over and over again throughout history, as scientists were quite often socially disadvantaged (e.g. Ramanujan, Maric-Einstein, Turing). One of the main reasons is that scientists focus on results. Every human has traits that others may like or dislike, but it is hard to call a theorem false because you think the author is X. Blaming some hidden conspiracy against people who are X is counterproductive, because only more Xs arise along with people adhering to them and none looks for ways to improve themselves. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:12
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    @user3209815 That is a remarkably naive view of academia. Once the results are published, yes, academia is relatively inclusionary, but there's so much more to it than that. In this specific case, academia is mostly saying, "yes, you can publish just fine, so long as you're happy sacrificing your identity" at the altar of the white-male-1960s sensibilities that got enshrined in style sheets that are irrelevant to the scientific merit of the piece. By your own argument (academia is inclusionary so long as the work shows merit) OP should be able to refer to hirself however ze wants.
    – E.P.
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 15:00
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    @E.P. Could we please leave religion and skin color out of this discussion? You are the only person who (repeatedly) mentioned them so far, and I don't think they play a role here. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 17:01
  • 12
    @E.P. Yes, OP is able to refer to herself however she wants. That will not affect the merit of any work. But, when writing academic papers, you write about your work and its merit, because that is what is and should be scrutinized. If you include statements about your "identity", your house for sale, your fascination with skateboarding, political views, etc., you invite the reviewers to form opinions about your person, not only your work. While this isn't an issue by itself, its consequence is that any remark made by them, can be perceived as being against your person, not against your work. Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 7:17

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