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Writing use cases is a very important task. It helps stake holders, project members, developers and architects to focus on specific needs for users. I find joy in writing use cases. But sometimes I find myself stuck in a gender wording problem since writing 'the user', 'user' and 'a user' creates an unwanted distance between the reader of the use case and the message I want to convey.

To bridge this mental gap I often use she (as in human) or he/she (either one) but never he. However, is this the appropriate way to use gender specifics in use cases, or is there a better way?

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Do you have personas that could be encountering the use cases? – Erics Feb 1 '14 at 8:53
@Erics Not in this case, but maybe that would solve the problem I'm facing here. – Benny Skogberg Feb 1 '14 at 9:40
He and/or she. Pick one and add a disclaimer that you also mean the other, or just switch per subject/story/example. When doing the latter be careful with regard to subconscious gender prejudices. I have found that in many manuals, persona descriptions, etc, "he" is often used in conjunction with traits and capabilities you would want to have, while "she" tends to get used in conjunctions with not-so-positive traits and incapabilities. – Marjan Venema Feb 1 '14 at 10:59
Users plural, with they, is another option, e.g. "The users can access the application via a screen where they will be asked to log in." – Yvonne Aburrow Feb 15 at 16:16
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I always wondered what's the deal with "she" in many design books, since I don't know this writing style from german.

I did a little research and found some stackexchange results:

The "solution" is basically one of

  • Use a plural noun: Students should save their questions until the end.
  • Use the formal one: One should save one's questions until the end.
  • Use his or her: Each student should save his or her questions until the end

Another solution to your problem could be to use the scrum user-story writing style: As a user, I want to be able to...."

This can be combined with personas, since the personas could "talk" about their own needs.

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Actually, as an IT professional in Germany, the guideline is to write it fully out ("Der Benutzer bzw. die Benutzerin"). I hate it for its clunkiness, but the Gesellschaft fuer Informatik explicitely writes that the shorter forms (BenutzerIn, Benutzer/in) shouldn't be used. If you are only talking about "Benutzer" in a professional setting, the least which will happen is that your female colleagues think you are a politically incorrect chauvinist. Personally, I use the short forms, but don't tell the GI :) – Rumi P. Feb 3 '14 at 10:48
German isn't my first language, but I am fine with Benutzer/in. "Der Benutzer bzw. die Benutzerin" seems far too long. The word I think is particularly weird is Fachmännin - why isn't it Fachfrau? :) – Yvonne Aburrow Feb 15 at 16:14

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