Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

A civilian female police officer?

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Image via Wikipedia

Yep – that’s what Gavin Esler just said on BBC News  in relation to the shooting incident at Fort Hood in the US. The perpetrator was shot by ‘a civilian female police officer’.

Would he have said ‘a civilian male police officer’? No, of course not. What’s the unspoken message? It’s surprising that a woman can be so brave? It was somehow braver because she is woman?  If we needed or wanted to know the person’s sex, we found out soon enough in Gavin’s next sentence: ‘She was wounded in the exchange of fire.’

See more on the sexist use of language and gratuitous modifiers in ‘Am I allowed to say that?’



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