Is exclusively using ‘he’ a style choice or lazy writing?

A guide from some time ago characterized using gender-inclusive pronouns as ‘clunky writing.’ We’d like your opinion.

This week, I was asked to fact check and update one of my company’s older publications. The content had been written by a freelance writer who was now retired. The information in the piece was still valid, so it didn’t appear that there was much for me to do. Then I read this sentence in the introduction:

“The author recognizes there are as many female doctors and patients as there are males. The use of ‘he’ includes both masculine and feminine genders. It is not meant to offend the reader but rather to avoid a cumbersome writing style.”


I have now rewritten the entire publication to avoid the exclusive use of the pronoun “he.” And—this won’t surprise any reader—there is nothing “cumbersome” about the writing.

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For example, the sentence “When you sense the discussion is coming to a close, ask the patient if he has anything further he would like to discuss” was changed to “When you sense the discussion is coming to a close, ask the patient if there is anything further to discuss.” This simple change eliminated the non-inclusive language and cleaned up the sentence.

What do you think, readers? Was the author’s style choice to only use the pronoun “he” a good one or was it simply lazy? Is it okay to use non-inclusive language if you explain yourself?

Laura Hale Brockway is medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work at

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