Newsroom Content Tips: Woman or Female?

content newsroom tips: woman or female?

There are content tips, and then there are content hammers to the head that I’ll also strangle you with if you don’t obey.

This content “tip” is the latter.

This common mistake bugs me so much that I had a dream about it last night that compelled me to finally write this post.

It irks me – and hopefully now it’ll irk you, too – when someone uses “woman” as an adjective, such as; woman driver.

“Female” is the adjective. You’d write “female driver.”

There’s a whole AP Stylebook rule about it that news folk follow:

Use female as an adjective, not woman. She is the first female governor of North Carolina.

I prefer the example: She is the first female president of the United States. 🙂 Someday.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Driver >:O

It’s not just the grammar nerd in me who screams every time she hears this – but the woman in me.

My primal female being roars in rage and frustration at this insidious mistake.

OK, maybe it sounds like I’m taking this way too seriously, but when I hear (or read) “woman driver” or “woman” anything, I hear a derogatory statement.

“A woman driver hit my car in the parking lot,” sounds like, “Of course it was a woman who hit my car. Women shouldn’t be driving anyway. Women disgust me.”

This is what I was furiously trying to explain to someone in my dream last night.

Sometimes, It’s an Innocent, and Ignorant, Grammar Mistake

Granted, sometimes using “woman” as an adjective is just a grammatical mistake without intended malice.

For example, at lunch just now, I watched a bit of the 1990’s two-season-wonder Twin Peaks (available on Netflix). In the episode, the female character Audrey exclaims upon seeing DEA agent Denise (formerly Dennis), “They have women agents?”

For some people, using “woman” or, in this case, “women” as an adjective is an innocent grammatical faux pas.

Maybe someday, we’ll move away from requiring these “male” and “female” distinctions altogether as people are just people.

But, as long as we’re still making these distinctions, let’s use adjectives and nouns correctly to avoid pissing everyone off.

So: “man” and “woman” are nouns. “Male” and “female” are adjectives or nouns.

How ‘Bout Them Men Drivers?

Interestingly, the AP Stylebook doesn’t have an entry for the proper use of “man” and “male.”

I guess there aren’t people going around disparaging men by saying, “A man driver hit my car in the parking lot.” (And not because it doesn’t happen, people – for all of you snarky quick-wits out there. Side note: apparently, you can use “wit” as a person, which I didn’t know till looking it up just now.)

Let’s Share, Discuss and Keep Learning

You beloved readers probably aren’t doing this, but if you know anyone who might be insulting women everywhere by using “woman” incorrectly, please SHARE THIS POST.

Thanks for loving women and being awesome! 🙂

Feel free to discuss in the comments below.

For more content tips from the newsroom, sign up for my free course!

Photo credit: Photo from modified image thanks to Spencer Means under a Creative Commons license.

Tracy McCarthy is the founder of Content Newsroom, a website dedicated to helping you get more customers through the quality content that your website visitors deserve and Google demands. A journalist turned Internet marketer, Tracy uses her writing and editing skills to help B2B and B2C businesses succeed with content marketing. She has done work for Content Marketing Institute, SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting, Brookstone and more, and has contributed to Kapost, ISOOSI and other industry-leading blogs.

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