The Associated Press stylebook has been updated to instruct journalists not to use the gender-neutral pronoun ‘ze’.
The AP Stylebook is the most popular grammar style and usage guide in US newsrooms, giving guidance on appropriate language and grammar usage.
The guidelines were updated this week, with extensive changes to an entry on gender as well as gender-neutral language.
For the first time, the stylebook allows the use of ‘they’ as a singular gender-neutral pronoun – while instructing users to ignore the preferences of people who ask to be referred to by the pronouns “xe or ze”.
The new entry states: “They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable.
“Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.”
The new entry on gender states: “Not synonymous with sex. Gender refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics.
“Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.
“When needed for clarity or in certain stories about scientific studies, alternatives include men and women, boys and girls, males and females.”
The AP was previously forced to update its Stylebook in 2013 to reflect the growing legalisation of same-sex marriage.
The update clarified that ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ could be used to refer to same-sex couples, after a previous memo suggested married same-sex couples should only be referred to as “partners”.
The listing for ‘husband, wife’ now states: Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.”