We recently had an answer to a question, where a written expression was gendered in a form, which is not part of the official language.

Shall we tolerate such officially wrong spellings, which would cost a pupil points in school?


This is a site about language, so we should be especially respectful towards the decisions that the participants make in regard to their language use. We should only ever make changes to someone else's text if we are confident that the writer agrees that they improve it. Making something comply with accepted use or spelling is not necessarily an improvement.

  • 1
    That is at least a rational argumentation according to the rules. Would you agree upon making a comment, asking for correct spelling? – user unknown May 3 '15 at 17:48
  • @userunknown, well, thanks, I guess ;) Indeed to me this is not about gender politics in particular, my opinion on “correcting” pre-reform spelling is the same. – Carsten S May 3 '15 at 17:57
  • 1
    @userunknown, I had missed your question, sorry. No, I would not agree on asking someone to change something that they did intentionally only because it is not "correct". – Carsten S May 4 '15 at 9:32
  • Well, I would. And there's no need to hyphenate "correct". There may be a few fringe cases, but at least in German grammar is usually either correct, or not. – Ingmar May 5 '15 at 5:27
  • My apologies, I obviously meant quotes and not hyphens. I blame it on the early morning hours and my (then) insufficient coffee intake. – Ingmar May 5 '15 at 12:24
  • @Ingmar, I understood you, no problem. But I will not be bound by what others decide is the correct way to write a German text. – Carsten S May 5 '15 at 12:30
  • Perhaps not. A noble sentiment, I'm sure, but then again not necessarily one shared by the majority of users here. To make myself perfectly clear: Permissiveness is all good and well, but there is such a thing as correct grammar, and we should try to uphold it. YMMV. – Ingmar May 5 '15 at 14:08
  • 1
    @Ingmar, this is not even about grammar, it is merely about writing. – Carsten S May 5 '15 at 15:32
  • @CarstenSchultz Even so there's usually a correct form. But let's keep it at that, you've made your point and it's clear that we don't quite see eye to eye on that issue. – Ingmar May 6 '15 at 6:52

There are no official rules on gender-neutral spelling but some variants do exist. Therefore it is all a matter of personal taste on how to treat this and which variant to choose.

In almost all fields of written German those variants are well tolerated (though some are disputed but they are not clearly designated as wrong).

The same tolerance should be applied to people posting here. So I am all against editing posts of people trying to word something in a gender-neutral fashion.

I would decline such an edit as too minor, as discussions on such details will inevitably lead away from the question that was asked. In addition all such side-discussions will not be resolved and they will lead to much clutter on the site.

  • 1
    Well, using _innen and such is already leading away from the question, that's the whole purpose of using it. And is such writing tolerated in school? I don't have children in school which I could ask, or is it tolerated in curses for foreigners? Btw., I disagree that the common language isn't gender neutral and official. – user unknown May 3 '15 at 16:44
  • 1
    Note that too minor for edits has been abolished. – Wrzlprmft May 3 '15 at 18:43
  • I have said it before, and say it again: I consider gender-neutral text entirely optional. If an author wants to use that, we should respect that choice. Having said that, it still needs to conform to proper German grammar and orthography. Which essentially rules out Binnen-I and similar abominations. Use neutral terms if you must ("Studierende"), or both terms (Fernsehsprecher und -sprecherinnen). – Ingmar May 3 '15 at 18:45
  • 3
    @Ingmar I would +1 your comment, but I am, at this very moment, clearly a Student and not a Studierender since there is nothing I’m doing at this very moment that’s related to studying. So the participe forms are usually incorrect. – Jan May 3 '15 at 20:18
  • 5
    @Ingmar: Also, Student is gender-neutral in standard German. (And if some people hadn’t loudly opposed this, probably nobody would think otherwise anymore. At the end of the day, the so-called gender-neutral language is contraproductive to the very goals it’s trying to achieve.) – Wrzlprmft May 4 '15 at 14:01
  • You don't have to convince me, but feminists beg to differ. The fact that the female form Studentin exists (and is commonly used, unlike English, e.g.) might shed some reasonable doubt on that claim. Like it or not, the generic masculine has been on its way out for some time. – Ingmar May 4 '15 at 14:18
  • 3
    The matter is not whether gender-neutral formulas are nice, wanted, irrelevant, bad style or whatever. The point I made is that we should not edit those things if the OP wanted to use them. – Takkat May 4 '15 at 15:06
  • 3
    But that is precisely the point. We do edit for style, clarity and correctness, after all. And that's a good thing, don't get me wrong, and usually appreciated by learners of a foreign language. – Ingmar May 5 '15 at 5:25
  • 3
    I agree to @Ingmar: we teach correct, neutral High German here - neutral in the sense that we won't use dialects as well. "Der Butter" would be corrected as well. If someone has a solid understanding of German, he may use whatever idea the genderists come up with, be it star or underscore, but this is not ours to teach. – Veredomon May 6 '15 at 11:44

We should stick strictly to official German writing rules in our answers. A site about language has to have a clear focus on correct spelling. Of course, free discussions about the idea of political motivated reforms are ok, or questions about conventions in special groups. Or texts, which underline that the used spelling is officially wrong like such including uppercase letters as in FußgängerInnenampel, underlines like in Proff_x, Slashes and Brackets as in der/die erste Läufer(in).

Users using such things should be led to this discussion in a comment and the text be corrected if the usage of such methods happened without notice.

  • 1
    I would accept "der/die Läufer/in", since it is common in job offers. – Veredomon May 6 '15 at 9:26
  • 3
    @Veredomon: Would you generally recommend that people learn German from job offers? – user unknown May 6 '15 at 21:17
  • 1
    There is a legal obligation to be gender-neutral in job ads and space is at a premium there. Very much like newspaper headlines this leads to contractions and other constructions that shouldn't be used in other contexts. Another popular choice (for job ads only) is "Job Title (m/w)". – Ingmar May 8 '15 at 3:14

In my opinion, there are better and worse ways to create visibility of both genders/sexes. (Better and worse meant in a stylistic context.)

  1. Switch between the usage of a generic masculine and a generic feminine. (Bonus points if the one you’re using is the unexpected one in context.) Absolutely non-disruptive towards the language

  2. Write out both possibilities. Again, non-disruptive but makes the statement longer.

  3. Use slash and brackets. It’s a more disruptive version of 2, but at least it’s short and doesn’t really disrupt stuff.

  4. Use CamelCased I. Slightly disruptive and sometimes leads to weird adjectives. But again it’s short. The only reason I disprefer this against 3 is that the uppercase I can often be mistaken for a lowercase l; especially with the sans-serif font our site uses.

  5. Use of a star, underscore, space or any other means to show the so-called ‘gender gap’. These are very disruptive since they seem to create an additional word which isn’t a word at all. The ‘gap’ seems just to be there to irritate a reader <include politically incorrect references to a certain group of people>.

In the question that created the discussion, we had a usage of an underscore to represent the so-called ‘gender gap’ — coincidentally the ugliest possible version to my eyes.

Now how should we deal with these?

  • If the post is of perfect wording and cannot be improved by editing, then do not edit even if it contains a ‘gender gap’.

  • If there are minor or major other things to be edited, edit the post in its entirety. If it contains a ‘gender gap’, turn it into a CamelCase, slash/bracket or written out combination (in order of preference). Do not replace by a generic masculine or generic feminine.

  • Never use a ‘gender gap’ or another one of the options 3/4 as an excuse to edit the post. It’s either worth editing by its own rights or not.

I think this somehow overlaps (or should overlap) with our treatment of the 1901 orthography.

  • By the way, I do not like the Gender_Gap either, but it could be said that if you speak of both possibilities you have not completely understood what it is about. – Carsten S May 3 '15 at 16:54
  • I have understood the argumentation that people asking for the ‘gender-gap’ use, but I refuse to accept it as valid. Slight difference ;) – Jan May 3 '15 at 20:15
  • Does it? I'm not sure that it should. If somebody wrote Thür or Thal" instead of Tür (door) and Tal (valley) we would certainly correct that, wouldn't we? The same should be true for other glaring errors. – Ingmar May 4 '15 at 4:03
  • @Ingmar the spelling of 1901 requires Tür and Tal. It was the one in effect until 1996. You might be confusing it with the spelling of 1876 ;) – Jan May 4 '15 at 7:13
  • @Jan, I see. But then your suggestions in the first part are irrelevant, because they try to achieve only part of what the Gender_Gap tries to achieve, right? – Carsten S May 4 '15 at 9:25
  • @Ingmar, if someone would consistently and with a clear reason use "Thür", then I would not want to interfere with that. Would you consider this an aBoMiNaTiOn also? – Carsten S May 4 '15 at 9:27
  • @CarstenSchultz Well, because I reject the idea that the ‘gender gap’ wants to achieve … but this is going too far, right? ;) – Jan May 4 '15 at 10:06
  • @Jan It does really not matter what reform we are talking about. My point remains entirely valid. – Ingmar May 4 '15 at 12:22
  • @CarstenSchulz: Yes, CamelCase is actually quite high up on the list of abominations. All kidding aside, there's really very little excuse for constant and, worse, deliberate misspellings. – Ingmar May 4 '15 at 12:24
  • @Ingmar, I was referring to "Thür", or maybe "Thuͤr". – Carsten S May 5 '15 at 12:37
  • Unless there was a very good reason for that spelling (discussing old texts, e.g.) I would not hesitate to correct it. – Ingmar May 5 '15 at 14:03

In the past, people corrected my texts even though they where correct on the grounds that this site is primarily meant for educating people. The example was to change Konjunktiv Präteritum to Konjunktiv II; and although I don't like all these I/II terms from German grammar, I accepted it, as the argument is quite convincing.

As gender gap is no part of the official german spelling rules, it should be corrected. Otherwise, foreigners may believe that this is the proper way to write German. If they know German well enough, they may take their own choice.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .