Tagged: gender minorities

Language Matters: Stop Using “Guys” to Address Mix-Gender Groups

Hi guys. Hey guys. You guys.

Several times a day, in the course of normal workplace communication, I receive messages addressed in the manner indicated above. And I’d like it to stop. I’m not a guy, and don’t want to be referred to as such. Furthermore, every time I read “you guys” I am reminded of my minority status in an industry that is predominantly male.

I would have the same reaction if I were addressed in group email or conversation as boys, or dudes or men. These descriptions aren’t any more accurate than using gals, women, ladies, or girls would be.

I realize that to many it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to a mixed-gender group of people as “guys.” I’m asserting that it’s a terrible habit and requesting that those of you who are accustomed to using it begin using alternative, truly gender-neutral words.

For example:

  • If you’re addressing something to one or two people, try just using their names!
  • If you’re addressing a group of people, use any of the following: team, y’all, folks, everyone.

(Please comment if you have other alternatives, and I’ll update my post accordingly.)

I understand how ingrained the “guys” habit might be for some of you. It was for me. After several months of concerted, conscious effort, I still slip and say it on occasion. But the best way to get rid of old habits, is to practice new ones. Start with email, where you have time to re-read and edit. Then move on to speech. If you say it out loud, correct yourself.

I’m not sure when I started paying attention to this particular construct. It was sometime over the last year, if not longer ago. And it was a result of my gaining more knowledge and experience with issues around gender minorities in tech. It might sound trivial to you, but language matters. We should focus on promoting language of inclusion, and eliminating that of exclusion.