Pronouns are...

  • non-proper nouns that are used to refer to people instead of using their names.
  • used in the English language to speak about people in the third person.
  • a public way in which people refer to others.
  • often assumed - it is likely that you have been taught to make assumptions about people’s pronouns based on the way they present themselves and the way you perceive them.
  • personal - individuals determine their pronouns, not others.
  • she, he, they, her, him, them, among many others.

Pronouns are not...

  • "gender pronouns"- pronouns are not a reliable indicator of gender or gender identity.
  • universally used - some people do not have pronouns and only use a proper name.
  • universal - the way they are used in the English language is not necessarily how they are used in other languages; gendered grammar does not exist in some languages; some languages don't have an equivalent part of speech to the pronoun.

Using pronouns intentionally

in conversation

  • Pronouns are a widely-used way in which people refer to others (second only to the proper name a person is known by). 
  • Unless you are prepared to use a person's proper name every time, it is important to know and use their pronouns.
  • Accurate pronoun use is as important as remembering and pronouncing someone's name correctly.  Getting it wrong has an impact.

on business cards, nametags, email signatures and other university-branded items

  • In an ever-evolving world, the ways in which we introduce ourselves are changing. The systems we use to introduce ourselves should adapt, as well.
  • These items are often the gateway to a working relationship and if pronouns are not included on them, mistaken assumptions can negatively impact the development of the relationship.
  • Newspaper/TV reporters don’t routinely ask for pronouns, which leads to incorrect reporting when they get it wrong. Having items that display pronouns ensures the sharing of correct information, in addition to the correct spelling of a proper name and accurate job title.

in general

  • Not everyone who presents femininely will respond to she/her/hers; not every masculine-presenting person uses he/him/his.
  • Not everyone identifies on a binary of he/him/his or she/her/hers.
  • Some people don't use pronouns to identify themselves.
  • Iowa State University supports, but does not compel, the inclusion of pronouns on university-branded items.
Pronouns on ISU-Branded Items

The Offices of University Marketing and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion have outlined steps taken around the inclusion of pronouns/more identifiable information on university-branded items.

Student riding a bike in front of daffodils at Iowa State University in the spring of 2017.