1. The easiest way to remove a gender-specific pronoun usually involves pluralizing it.

Wrong: Above all, the adult student brings to adult education a high level of motivation. His purposes are clear and the rewards high.

Better: Most adult students bring a high level of motivation to the adult education setting. Their purposes usually are clear and resulting rewards high.

2. The use of "man" or "mankind" to indicate a larger or universal class of individuals can be corrected by using the term human or people.

Wrong: Thinking is another of Man's vocations.

Better: Thinking is another human vocation.

Wrong: The grown person has many vocations: those to which he is called to earn his living and those to which he chooses as ways of enjoying life.

Better: Mature people have many vocations: those to which they are called for earning an living and those chosen as means for enjoying life.

3. The use of "he or she," "s/he,", or something like womyn to obtain the correct sound but avoid spelling the word with "man" in it should be avoided because of the awkwardness, lack of clarity, and extra words required.

Wrong: The adult teacher often lacks formal training, although he or she might have many years of practical experience.

Better: Adult teachers often lack formal training, although many will have several years of practical experience.

Wrong: As a person matures his or her self-concept moves from being a dependent personality to being a self-directed human being.

Better: As individuals mature their self-concept moves from being a dependent personality toward being self-directed.

4. It is even possible to make an original quote with male pronouns gender free (according to APA, 3rd edition, guidelines), although it reads a little awkwardly.

Original material to be quoted: His own curiosity will be alive, his creativeness constantly stirred by the uniqueness of the people and situations he meets.

Material quoted without the male pronoun: [Their] . . . own curiosity will be alive, [their] . . . creativeness constantly stirred by the uniqueness of the people and situations . . . [they meet].

5. Avoid using words that can be perceived as derogatory or stereotyped.

Wrong: Radicals or women's libbers are leading the movement toward equality.

Better: Supporters of the women's movement are leading it toward equality.

6. Avoid using words that can be perceived as ethnically or religiously biased.

Statement that could be perceived as overly biased: Bible-belt fundamentalists were the main cause of the Republican party's presidential defeat in 1992.

Better: Differences in religious views were important among causes of the Republican party's presidential defeat in 1992.


1. Substitute for some of your prepositional phrases

old: institutions of higher education . . .

new: higher education institutions . . .

2. Remove some of the illustrative, cuing, or descriptive


old: For example, adult education as a discipline . . .

new: Adult education as a discipline . . .

old: self-directed learning approaches (e.g., learning

projects) . . .

new: self-directed learning approaches . . .

3. Remove some words used to indicate a pause at the start of a


old: However, it is frequently the case . . .

new: It is frequently the case . . .

4. Substitute one word for three or four

old: A variety of publishing houses . . .

new: Various publishers . . .

old: In the majority of the cases, higher education . . .

new: Usually higher education . . .

5. Remove some proper nouns or prestigious titles

old: Dr. Robert Jones (1981) noted that . . .

new: Jones (1981) noted that . . .

6. Remove fun, cute, personal, needless, or catchy phrases

old: In the author's opinion, instructional design . . .

new: Instructional design . . .

7. Avoid jargon, abbreviations, and acronyms

old: The instructional approach was pedagogically sound . . .

new: A sound instructional approach . . .

8. Remove some modifying or qualifying phrases

old: Research by people like Dewey and Rogers . . .

new: Some educators' research --or-- Dewey and Rogers'

research . . . (see no. 10)

old: Brown (1991) was somewhat reluctant to . . .

new: Brown (1991) was reluctant to . . .

9. Remove some descriptive names than an interested reader

could find if really necessary

old: The Pergamon Press consortium, consisting of the UK,

USA, Canada, and Australia, produced several . . .

new: The Pergamon Press consortium produced several . . .

10. Use possessives to replace some words

old: The sociological theory of Adams (1990) . . .

new: Adams' (1990) sociological theory . . .

11. Use semicolons as occasional connectors rather than starting

new sentences

old: Gate's (1982) initial work on learning activities

established a definitional base. A more extensive effort to build

learning definitions was carried out by Rodriguez (1988).

new: Gate's (1982) work on learning activities established

some definitions; Rodriguez (1988) later added to these.

12. Substitute fewer words with the same meaning

old: some of what is known about learning . . .

new: some aspects of learning . . .

old: It is obvious that social workers need . . .

new: Obviously, social workers need . . .

13. Avoid telling people what they already know or can easily


old: It is known, of course, that behavioral objectives . . .

new: [if it is known, don't state it at all]

14. Use the active rather than the passive voice

old: Several million American adults are limited by being

unable to read or write.

new: Illiteracy limits several million American adults.

15. Avoid unneeded adjectives and adverbs

old: Interviews took place in a large auditorium . . .

new: Interviews took place in an auditorium . . .

old: Participants stared intensely at the monitor . . .

new: Participants stared at the monitor . . .

16. Avoid unspecific or indefinite language

old: Recently, the number of new undergraduates seems to be


new: There were fewer undergraduates this year.

17. Use positive forms of words or statements

old: The subjects were not aware of the teacher.

new: The subjects were unaware of the teacher.

18. Avoid the combination of both positive and negative


old: The answer is not to find fault with the past

theories. It is to build new theories.

new: The answer is to build new theories.

19. Avoid overusing certain explanatory or descriptive words, such

as however, in addition, thus, and therefore.

20. Cut out unnecessary evidence or anecdotes. One example is

usually enough and folksy anecdotes slow down the pace.

21. Avoid using such speculative terms or phrases as often

possible, may be possible, if you wish, as it were, and so to


22. If the material is very well written, you may need to eliminate

such items as entire sentences, whole paragraphs, complete

sections, tables, and figures.

23. To help in decisions about what to remove, ask the following

question: Will the meaning of this sentence or paragraph change if

I remove this word or change this phrase.

-- Return to research page

Return me to your first page