Changing Pronoun Gender

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 31, 2020)

2

Robert would like to have a macro that changes the gender of pronouns in documents and wonders if, perhaps, there is anything suggested to make such changes.

If you are looking for a macro to change the gender of all pronouns in a document, that is relatively straightforward—all you need is one that will do universal search and replace operations for male pronouns and change them to female pronouns, or vice-versa.

If, however, you are looking for a macro that will alternate pronouns—first usage is male, second is female, etc.—such as is often done in non-fiction writing, that is a different story. That is best left to a skilled editor to make the judgment calls on which changes to make and how far to extend those changes.

So, assuming you want to go the universal route, the best approach is to use a macro that utilizes wildcard searching using pairs of pronouns (one male pronoun with a corresponding female pronoun) to specify the changes to be made. The following example uses such an approach to change he, him, his, and himself to the female forms (she, her, hers, herself) or vice versa.

Sub MaleToFemale()
    GenderChange (True)
End Sub
Sub FemaleToMale()
    GenderChange (False)
End Sub
Sub GenderChange(isMale As Boolean)
    Dim aRange As Range
    Dim fTest As Boolean
    Dim j As Long
    Dim k As Long
    Dim male
    Dim female
    male = Array("he", "He", "HE", "him", "Him", "HIM", "his", _
                 "His", "HIS", "himself", "Himself", "HIMSELF")
    female = Array("she", "She", "SHE", "her", "Her", "HER", "hers", _
                   "Hers", "HERS", "herself", "Herself", "HERSELF")

    ActiveDocument.TrackRevisions = True
    Set aRange = ActiveDocument.Range
    With aRange.Find
        .ClearFormatting
        .Replacement.ClearFormatting
        .Replacement.Highlight = False
        .Forward = True
        .Format = False
        .Wrap = wdFindStop
        .Format = False
        .Highlight = False
        .MatchCase = False
        .MatchWholeWord = False
        .MatchSoundsLike = False
        .MatchAllWordForms = False
        .MatchPrefix = False
        .MatchWildcards = True

        j = UBound(male)
        For k = 0 To j
            If isMale Then
                .Text = "<" & male(k) & ">"
                .Replacement.Text = female(k)
            Else
                .Text = "<" & female(k) & ">"
                .Replacement.Text = male(k)
            End If
            fTest = aRange.Find.Execute(Replace:=wdReplaceAll)
        Next k
    End With
    ActiveDocument.TrackRevisions = False
End Sub

Note that there are three macros in the listing. You should use the MaleToFemale macro to change from male pronouns to female pronouns and the FemaleToMale macro to change the other direction. The pronoun pairs themselves are in the GenderChange macro, in the male and female arrays. Note that each pronoun is included in the array three times using different combinations of upper- and lowercase characters. This is because the wildcard search is case sensitive, so the different searches for each case instance is necessary.

Note that the macro also turns on Track Changes before it makes any changes. That way every change made by the macro is noted in the document and you can then use the regular Track Changes resolution process to evaluate each change made. This is done because the English language is terribly imprecise and there is ambiguity in the usage of some words that we generally consider pronouns. For instance, the words "his" and "hers" can be used as either possessive personal pronouns or as possessive adjectives. It is only possible to distinguish the proper usage when looking at them in context, which is something the macro obviously doesn't do. Bottom line—read after changing so you can make sure your document still makes sense.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12896) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is 7 + 7?

2021-11-01 12:41:41

Jason

What about changing the pronouns (either male or female) to gender neutral (e.g., they/them)?


2020-10-31 14:02:06

David Cohen

I know that Allen can devise a macro for nearly every issue. An old-school way to deal this would be to find and replace each pronoun with exactly the same word but in a red (for example) font. You can then easily cruise through the document quickly, spot issues, and make changes. When you're done, highlight the entire document and make all font black.


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