Inclusive writing: what rules or conventions should be used to write in non-gendered language in French?

Web or print media, videos or social networks, speeches or public communication... Inclusive writing is the subject of debate, yet it's taking hold just about everywhere. The idea of doing away with the grammatical rule that the masculine takes precedence over the feminine reflects a deeper desire to change mentalities through egalitarian writing. Midpoints, abbreviated doublets, epicene formulations... Faced with the rise of gender-neutral spelling, it's essential to adopt the rules and conventions for gender-neutral writing in French.

What is inclusive writing?

Inclusive language was born of the following premise: in the French language, in the absence of neutral nouns, usage feeds stereotypes in favor of the masculine. In spite of itself, this linguistic practice forges mentalities and influences our perception of the world. Through continuous exposure to grammatical practices that elevate the masculine to a higher level, French maintains inequalities between the sexes.

Inclusive writing, also known as egalitarian writing, gender-neutral language or gender-neutral graphics, is then a set of graphic and syntactic means aimed at restoring equal gender representation in the French language.

What are the rules for gender-neutral writing in French?

Non-stereotyped communication encompasses various practices that are not all grammatical and syntactic, particularly in public debate:

  • Eliminating sexist expressions
  • The diversity of representations
  • Gender balance in visual media
  • The complete presentation of women's identities in the image of men's.
  • Not attributing questions about domestic life solely to women

Thinking inclusively is therefore a prerequisite for gender-neutral writing. Then, at the syntactical level, there are several rules to be aware of.

Mastering the midpoint

The midpoint is used to form abbreviated doublets. These truncated forms preserve both genders in a single word by adding the final of the corresponding feminine form.

The ending then differs according to the initial word, and the plural mark must also be preceded by a medial point.

For example:

  • Words that take an "e" in the feminine are the simplest: administré-e, apprenti-e, médical-e, but their variation in the plural is not always obvious, such as médicaux-ales.
  • Words ending in "teur" in the masculine form vary from chanteur-euse-s to cantateur-rice-s depending on the corresponding feminine form.
  • Words ending in "if" with a feminine ending in "ive" are written creatif-ive
  • Words with a double consonant in the feminine form professionals or citizens.

To display the midpoint, press Alt + 0183 on PCs and Alt + Shift + F on Macs.

Other neutral or egalitarian writing processes

Some of the following linguistic practices are already in frequent use. They have the advantage of being more fluid for reading than the midpoint or typographic innovations.

  • The use of epicene words: these terms, which are written in the same way in the feminine or masculine form, allow neutral formulations in the plural (e.g. artists).
  • The use of generic terms: these gender-neutral words can refer to both sexes at the same time (e.g. parent, staff, person...).
  • The use of double expressions such as "all and sundry"...
  • Gender agreement of function nouns, professions or titles

Inclusive writing also promotes new grammatical practices, such as the agreement of adjectives according to the rule of proximity in the sentence rather than gender. But also the fact of making enumerations in alphabetical order.

Beware of the impact of inclusive copywriting on SEO and reading fluidity

From the Académie française to the French Ministry of Education, inclusive writing is not unanimously supported. The difficulties pointed out concern its application for dyslexics and the visually impaired.

Similarly, the INRS recommends avoiding the use of spelling or typographical innovations (such as "iel" or "celleux") that make reading more cumbersome.

The practice of gender-neutral writing is therefore a genuine intention. However, inclusive communication processes can remain discreet, thanks in particular to neutral writing techniques.

It should also be noted that the mid-point is not yet recognized by word-processing software, which considers the resulting words to be spelling mistakes. As for search engines, they do not yet allow inclusive publications to appear on standard queries. The use of the mid-point should therefore be reserved for the body of the text, rather than for key places used for referencing.