Inclusive writing is a topic that is often at the center of heated discussions. This style of writing, also known as the epicene language, is increasingly denigrated in France.

It aims to optimize the visibility of women in writing, but is opposed by followers of the language in its purest form.

François Jolivet himself proposes to promulgate a law which prohibits this type of language in administrative papers.

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What is inclusive writing?

Inclusive writing is a collection of practices aimed at erasing the different elements of language that are gendered and sexist.

Which goes through different spellings and rules specific to the way of writing French.

The goal is to come back to different rules belonging to the language and which borrow gender stereotypes. Feminists defended these rules around 1970-1980.

It is not easy to describe the history of inclusive writing. It is an expression bringing together various modalities that divide the proponents of inclusive writing.

How to write inclusively?

To write in an inclusive way, you have to start by removing sexist expressions (Mademoiselle). This also consists in removing the maiden name.

Function and job names are also feminized. Neutral words are preferred to masculine nouns. We talk more about human rights than human rights.

In addition, inclusive writing also aims to use the masculine and feminine in messages reserved for mixed audiences.

Thus, when speaking, we rather say “the English and the English” even if the English are already understood in the English.

The masculine prevails over the feminine, but this practice, the defenders of inclusive writing question it.

Of course, the masculine is neutral. Some opt for majority agreement. Here, the most represented chord wins.

As a result, we write “Marc and his four daughters have left” instead of “left”.

Why should this practice be defended?

People who advocate for inclusive writing offer different arguments.

The history of language is one of the latter. Those who defend inclusive writing begin by recalling different rules. Already, they confirm that the masculine prevails over the feminine.

Otherwise, they also advocate the neutralization of different professions and functions by using the masculine. Thus, we write “Madam Mayor”.

The male gender seems more noble and prevails against different female genders. It seems closer to adjectives than the feminine gender.

Experience is the second argument that is put forward. Admittedly, we often say nurses when we also say doctors. Similarly, we spontaneously say the secretary and the lawyer.

Which seems to refer to prejudices.

Thus, speaking of nurses and doctors, we tend to place them in a collective unconscious. Thus, we end up believing that doctor is a job for men and nurse a job for women.

However, this assumption is false.


What about the reproaches of the opponents?

Inclusive writing can also lead us to get confused during conversations.

According to opponents, inclusive writing tends to make learning much more complex. For others, this practice is quite “exclusive”, especially with “es”.

When we introduce a specification on sex, we end up with a dissociation. Which is contrary to inclusion. We systematize gender opposition by trying to cancel it.

The new writing can have an opposing effect of boys and girls. Which ends up creating an exclusion for both parties. This aggravates the difficulties within the lower grades.

Inclusive writing: what does it arouse?

Integrating perspectives into the French language has caused great excitement. Spellings and neologisms began to appear.

In addition, linguists propose to return to different forms of feminization which were prohibited in the 18and century.

We had to wait until the 20thand century to feminize functions (teacher, doctor, etc.).

ESBC: what are the strategies put forward?

There are a few strategies to use to enjoy legible and epicene writing. It is recommended to combine various methods.

Use neutral wording

It is certainly possible to substitute a gendered word by using a neutral word. It is possible to use neutral names for function names, collective names or epicene names…

It is also possible to use epicene nouns in the plural. Thus, it is better to say “the librarians” instead of using “the or there”.

It is recommended to use epicene adjectives including “a suitable candidate” instead of “a competent candidate, a competent candidate…”.

It is better to use epicene pronouns including “a person” instead of saying “a participant, a participant”.

Using the truncated form or the doublet

It is advisable to use the doublet to allow women and men to be visible in the text.

The place of women is marked explicitly. It is recommended to use words with a feminine form that are easily recognized orally.

Thus, we say researcher instead of researcher.

On the adjective and the article

By using the article in the singular, it is possible to double the article. If this is an example, it is better to choose a variation of people and genders.

Thus, instead of writing “the journalist”, we will write “the journalist”.

Specify “men and women”

It is recommended to speak of men and women and to write “the leaders, women and men” instead of writing “the leaders” at all.

Inclusive writing

Why use inclusive writing in communication?

Choosing inclusive writing is likely to scare some people. Indeed, this change is not always welcomed as it should be.

Moreover, many signs have paid the costs.

Admittedly, using the midpoint indicates a preferred position. For a company, it depends on the brand.

However, it is clear that this practice is singled out by the blind since reading software cannot yet decipher this type of writing.

Although it is not mandatory to use this midpoint which is not an obligation to write an egalitarian text. You just have to refer to the above rules.

Currently, inclusive writing seems to be gaining ground. In a 2017 textbook, she made headlines. From August, Twitter generalizes the inclusive pronoun “iel”.

We use this pronoun when we do not know the gender of the person. If the networks use this pronoun, it is because the movement is not trivial.

By using inclusive writing in business, leaders ensure that they express themselves in an egalitarian manner.

What does the French Academy say?

The French Academy also takes part in this debate. Grammarians would have preferred to masculinize the language and they have continued to prove it since the creation of the said academy in 1634.

In short, it is a deliberate act. Feminized words existed until the 17th century and they were often used alongside masculine forms.

This practice dates back to the Middle Ages and we used to say authors and authors or even teachers.

This group of men then made a decision to say that the masculine trumps the feminine for trades.

In 1651, the Academy decreed that the masculine gender is more imbued with nobility. It therefore prevails alone against several female genders.

This superiority of the male over the female will be taught for more than 100 years. Students should grasp this principle as they write.

The circular aimed at feminizing the names of professions has aroused the anger of this great academy which thinks of itself as the sole guardian of the use of the language.

She revokes the generic masculine and thinks suffixes are unnecessary. Doctor therefore remains invariable and the same is true of “mayor”.

This position will remain its own until February 2019, when the Academy prefers to withdraw from this debate. It leaves politicians free.

Edouard Philippe’s circular

Lionel Jospin and Laurent Fabius took the decision to publish circulars taking sides for the feminization of the names of functions and trades at the level of the administration.

For his part, Édouard Philippe preferred a circular which prohibits the use of inclusive writing in the official journal.

This Prime Minister affirms that the masculine is a form of neutrality suitable for both women and men.

That’s not all, because he asks that state services not make use of this writing model.

According to Eliane Viennot who is a professor of literature, this circular was a real nonsense. Admittedly, the Prime Minister made the decision to reduce inclusive writing to spelling.

It does not mention the midpoint, but speaks of it in convolutions including the parentheses chosen by the administrations and the Ministry of the Interior.

This circular has no binding value. His limiting definition of inclusive writing was not enough to prohibit the use of midpoints.

In local governments and even at university level, expressions like “citizens, all” remain relevant.

This is why right-wing politicians who base themselves on Edouard Philippe’s circular are trying to ban the use of inclusive writing, which she hopes to reduce to the midpoint.

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