One of the UK’s universities, University of Hull, will cut students’ grades if they use gender-insensitive language, which includes words such as ‘mankind’ and ‘layman’. This is the first time such penalty has been announced.

“Language is important and highly symbolic. I thus expect you to be aware of the powerful and symbolic nature of language and use gender-sensitive formulations. Failure will impact your mark,” the guidelines read. The guidelines were released via a Freedom of Information request.

The college urges its students to use words such as humankind, layperson etc

The guidelines apply to students who have enrolled in the university’s religious activism course. It will deduct marks on a case by case basis.

A number of British universities are trying to promote gender neutral language. Cardiff Metropolitan University has a gender neutral term checklist, that gives alternate terms for words such as ‘mankind’ etc.

However, the move has been met with some criticism. Frank Furedi, professor of Sociology at Kent University, said that this is linguistic policing and is ‘used as a coercive tool to impose a conformist outlook’.

Universities in the US are also trying to use more gender neutral language. Yale is considering using the term first-year instead of the traditional ‘freshman’.

Sarah Lawrence has also issued gender neutral guidelines to the college’s administrators. It suggests using words such as ‘kinship’ and ‘solidarity’ instead of ‘brotherhood’.

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