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In my language (Hebrew) verbs can be appointed to either male or female, written in a bit different form. (there is no form referring to both).

Which gender should I write "to" (what form of verbs should I use)?

I'm developing a mobile app whose target market is Arab students from both genders.

I know of 2 options (please suggest others if you know of them):

  1. Writing both - I think this gets it messy and not very user friendly (long texts on button etc.) example: ... form1/form2 ...
  2. Show a message when app is opened saying that all texts were written for the male/female gender for convenience and that it does not mean anything (the app is for both).
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What choices do other Hebrew software programs use? This question is very culture/language specific and answers by native english speakers are not likely to be helpful. –  James Jenkins Jun 6 '13 at 11:36
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There's a third option you haven't listed. Use one gender consistently (as in option 2), but don't interrupt the user's workflow by displaying the message when the app starts. Instead just place the explanation in a supplementary help page. –  3nafish Jun 6 '13 at 14:23
    
1) Wait for this proposal to enter public beta; 2) Ask there :) –  AakashM Jun 6 '13 at 15:51
    
Technically there is no such word in English for third person. you is often used if directing at one person, if there is a Hebrew equivalent. For third party conversations however younger writers generally replace the formal he / she with "they" and there have even been proposals to standardize on a singular third person noun such as hu to follow the old grammar rules of he / she but not be sex-specific –  Austin French Jun 6 '13 at 16:47
    
Look at this answer ux.stackexchange.com/questions/28180/… –  rk. Jun 6 '13 at 17:30

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Option 2. Better to be consistent in your writing, and tell the user what you're doing and why. I would choose the default gender based on other Hebrew writings that your users may have been exposed to.

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Most hebrew writings use the male gender. Thank you :) –  Dan Barzilay Jun 9 '13 at 18:01

How about showing a dialog asking for gender at the first start of the app, saving it and then using that form?

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Recently I happened to attend a training on Plain English in which I asked my trainer the same question. My point was that writing he/she together to mention my user is not cool and repetitive use of he/she rather reduces the impact actual point which I am making. Also a "/" (slash) in the writing looks ugly as this is diagonal character and rest of the letters are written vertically straight.

My trainer mentioned following solutions to gender issue.

  • use gender-neutral subject "the user" and avoid using he/she altogether
  • if you had to pick a gender, pick one of the two and stick to it within an article But write to the other gender in your next article and put such articles together to be seen as unbiased.
  • If not sure which gender to use, using she is slightly safer to use than he.
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I know this is a question about the Hebrew language, however, as an native English speaker, I must disagree with the last bullet. Using "she" rather than "he" in a gender neutral context still stands out as odd. As Strunk and White put it: "The use of ‘he’ as a pronoun for nouns embracing both genders is a simple, practical convention rooted in the beginnings of the English language. No one need fear to use ‘he’ if common sense supports it." –  hhamilton Jun 6 '13 at 13:04
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Hi Hamilton. Two thoughts here. Use of "he" may not "save" us as gender addressing issues were born when use of "he" the convention. Second, as a standard practice in South Asia where I am from and where English is taught as second language, it is common practice to use "she" whenever gender is unknown. BUT I agree use of "she" stands out odd, yet it is less "provocative" to gender conscious section and you are likely to receive less criticism than otherwise. So even though it reads odd, it is politically more accurate than "he". –  Salman Jun 6 '13 at 13:20
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Interesting info. The "gender conscious section" does get up in arms over the use of he, however there is also a section that sees the use of she over he as pandering and silly prescriptivism. No matter which pronoun you use some people will be off put, so from a usability standpoint I still strongly agree with your first bullet in an effort to avoid the quagmire of gender specific pronouns altogether. –  hhamilton Jun 6 '13 at 13:55
    
@hhamilton I agree, I see it as pandering myself. Although not at all sexist, I do take issue with pandering. It is illogical to be upset about generalizing with he and instead using she. Its the same problem and solves nothing, other than reading odd and breaking old grammar rules. –  Austin French Jun 6 '13 at 16:51

Just write around the gender issue. It makes translation easier, too.

Is it impossible to avoid using gender pronouns? I can't think of an example where you have to use gender pronouns and cannot use something gender neutral like "User".

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In hebrew, if you want to say "Send", you have 2 forms, one for male and one for female –  Dan Barzilay Jun 6 '13 at 11:33

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