It was a known fact already to Mark Twain; he wrote about it in his poignant essay The Awful German Language. And as if that were not already enough, we now have another problem: gender-inclusive language – called gendern in German. To make women more visible, numerous media outlets and newspapers have stopped using the generic plural (masculine form) and have started using various symbols to show that they are addressing both women and men. In German, the plural masculine form usually has no suffix, while the feminine form is marked by the suffix is –innen. For example, Übersetzer und Übersetzerinnen (translators).

One solution is the bridge-I. In this case, the i in innen is capitalised, so that both the female and male forms of the word are expressed, as for example, MitarbeiterInnen (employees). This solution is very common and used by Deutsche Bahn, among others.

Another option is the “gender star”, which is used by The Green Party in Germany, for example. It is done by setting an asterisk between the gender marker and the word, such as in Mitarbeiter*innen. It has the advantage that it does not only address men and women, but also people who are neither or in between the sexes.

The underscore is a similar variant: Mitarbeiter_innen. This option also has the advantage of addressing anyone no matter their gender identity. However, it also has a disadvantage: If you underline a word written that way, the underscore, or gender gap, will no longer be visible, also affecting readability of the word and text.

However, there is still no official standard. This is why we will continue to deliver our translations to German in the traditional form until further notice – that is to say a “Vertrag“, which has been reviewed by “3 Rechtsanwälten“, may have been reviewed:

– by 3 male lawyers
– by a mix of male and female lawyers
– but not by three female lawyers – then, it would have to be „3 Rechtsanwältinnen“.

Sounds confusing? It is. So let us hope for a new standard.

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