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.
  • not universally used - some people do not have pronouns and only use a proper name.
  • not 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.

More about pronouns (external site)

Using pronouns intentionally

in conversation

  • Pronouns are the 2nd most widely-used way to which people refer to others (1st would be the proper name a person is known by). 
  • Unless you are prepared to use a person's proper name every time, it's 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 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 offers, but does not require, the use of pronouns on university-branded items.


ISU community members are encouraged to include their pronouns in prominent places where their name appears to others for the first time. For example, in a biography on a website, on business cards, in email signatures, on permanent nametags, and on desk nameplates.


Including your pronouns on university-branded items

Gender and Sexual Diversity Initiatives (GSDI)