Use of personal pronouns in government proposals

Always try to be respectful of the customer

During one of Lohfeld Consulting Group’s recent proposal writing classes, a student asked, “how should we use personal pronouns in government proposals?” I answered that I always tried to be respectful of the customer I was addressing and the person to whom I am referring in the proposal and use their pronouns of choice. However, in many cases you might not know their pronouns of choice, so consider using their title.

I wasn’t satisfied with my immediate answer, so I decided to consult the government’s plainlanguage.gov website. Here’s what the website indicated:

Avoid using “he” or “she”

You can avoid awkwardness by using “you” to address the reader directly, rather than using “he or she” or “his or her.” Make sure you use pronouns that clearly refer to a specific noun. If a pronoun could refer to more than one person or object in a sentence, repeat the name of the person or object or rewrite the sentence.

By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

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