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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Alternatives to ‘Guys’ and ‘Ladies’

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve noticed I tend to respond to emails from my colleagues with the term “guys,” regardless of the gender of the recipients -- i.e., “Thanks, guys.”

I also do this if I’m responding to an email when all the recipients are female. I also do this in person, unless all the people I’m addressing are female, in which case I will use the term “ladies.”

Is there more of an ambiguous or polite term I should be using? And does it matter if I’m referring to only females? For some reason, “Thanks, ladies” seems condescending to me in an email, but perhaps I’m too sensitive. I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues and would hate to learn I’ve ever offended any of them.

GENTLE READER: Email affords you the opportunity to choose your words carefully, and to know whom you are addressing. However, there is rarely a need to identify groups in terms of gender, so why not give it up entirely? “Thanks, everyone” or even just “Thanks” is sufficient to end a letter or discussion.

Miss Manners has noticed that others have taken up her distaste for “you guys” as a generic, supposedly gender-neutral greeting. And the strange notion that a feminine form such as “ladies” is perceived as an insult further corroborates that inherent bias. Until we find a greeting that is truly gender-neutral and satisfactory, Miss Manners suggests that we all give up addressing mass audiences by gender entirely. It seems inevitable to get it wrong or cause offense.