With the new CoC changes about gendered pronouns being discussed, and the different impact they have on different stack exchange sites, I wonder if having a different CoC for different sites has been considered. In my mind, there are 3 categories which could benefit from different rules around what is the correct writing style, specifically around the use of pronouns.

1) Technical

(stackoverflow, superuser, etc...)

Technical sites don't care about personal information. That personal information includes your pronouns. The CoC should reflect this on technical sites where personal information is at best noise. On these sites, pronouns and other personal information should almost never be included in the questions and answers. Its not a question of wether or not pronouns should be respected (they should), but pronouns should never be there in the first place

2) Impersonal

(history, skeptics, law, etc...)

Impersonal sites are those in which the personal information about the the person asking or answering the question is irrelevant, but personal information is relevant to the question/answer itself. An answer/question about a person should 100% respect that person personal identification, but the personal information of the people asking or answering these questions is largely irrelevant. Again, pronouns should be respected in the content of questions/answers, but the pronouns of the person asking/answering the question should be omitted in most cases.

3) Personal

(Workplace, Writing, etc...)

Personal sites often necessitate the use of personal information to get the best question/answer. Questions and answers often rely on personal experience, and some of the best answers I have seen are often because of the personal experience. Preferred pronouns should always be respected.

I think much of the conflict over the new CoC changes could be avoided if there was an official recognition of the fact that while everyone should be respectful of pronouns, the use cases for pronouns in different sites is different.

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    I agree. The pronouns discussion (issue) might be mostly generate noise for technical issues, and just a pretext for some users to sidetrack why their questions aren't that well received. Oct 10, 2019 at 18:16
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    @BenMohorc Note that you're poking into a very heated discussion right now. Don't wonder about downvotes you'll get here. Check this please. Oct 10, 2019 at 18:19
  • @πάνταῥεῖ That answer made me think of the different scenarios in the first place. I was tempted to link it, but was unsure about dragging another user into something that could become hot water
    – Ben Mohorc
    Oct 10, 2019 at 18:23
  • The water is boiling already. I've been recently asking a question here what I believe we really need about guidance from Stack Overflow regarding that issue. Oct 10, 2019 at 18:26
  • De facto, there are now already different CoC per site, see question "How does this apply to languages other than English?" at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/334900/… : "the specific requirements around pronoun usage apply only to English language sites. " Oct 10, 2019 at 18:26
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    @PatrickMevzek ""the specific requirements around pronoun usage apply only to English language sites. "" Are you really sure about that? Oct 10, 2019 at 18:28
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    I really don't see what sense this differentiation would make. I guess you thought it helpful, because you completely ignored comments for some reason?
    – Tom
    Oct 10, 2019 at 18:29
  • @πάνταῥεῖ I am only quoting what is on the page whose link I gave. It is a FAQ coming directly from SE about the new CoC. Oct 10, 2019 at 18:33
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    Actually the use case is exactly the same on all these types of sites. They all have comments, chat, and moderator actions, and I'm guessing that's where most of the friction is likely to occur. Also if you take using the correct pronouns seriously as a matter of respect it doesn't make sense to enforce it on one type of site and not on the other. Either don't enforce it, or do so on all sites
    – Pekka
    Oct 10, 2019 at 18:34
  • Pronouns may or may not be used in all occasions when language deals with persons. I don't know of a single stack exchange that would do without pronouns. Treat them all the same, it's less effort. Oct 11, 2019 at 12:15

1 Answer 1


It may be true that getting a good answer to a question on some sites will depend on your gender. But that's irrelevant.

The true issue around pronouns happens on technical sites as much as non technical ones. It is quite common to see comments like

Kate Gregory's answer already covered this. Did you try what he suggested?

I appreciate the support, but I am not "he". For me, being assumed to be male is a common occurrence and one that doesn't cause me personal pain. (I've answered about this before.) However, there are people for whom this is a huge deal. Perhaps they are trans, and people calling them the wrong gender is extra-ordinarily painful. Perhaps they are nonbinary or otherwise use a pronoun other than "he" or "she." Whatever the reason, it's important as part of "be nice" to use the right pronouns when we know them. This is entirely orthogonal to "writing an answer that applies to a woman" as your question seems to imply.

You say that on technical sites "pronouns should never be there in the first place" and they are certainly rare, but they happen. People comment that "he says he already tried that" or "I think you should ask your boss; he will know what the design was." Using pronouns is pretty common, and getting it right is important to many people. Of course we shouldn't have draconian punishments for not knowing, for guessing wrong, or for forgetting. But for commenting something like "I am not going to refer to you as [whatever]" is not being nice, is it?

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    I had not considered that. Those are definitely use cases that are on topic that I had not considered. +1
    – Ben Mohorc
    Oct 10, 2019 at 18:37
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    I'm struggling to see a CoC violation in your example, to be honest. You haven't identified the pronoun you prefer to be called by, and even if it can be inferred by context, there are two key pieces to this: it may be a cultural thing which causes users to write that way, or it may be that they've encountered someone else who had a similar pseudonym who did identify as male.
    – Makoto
    Oct 10, 2019 at 18:41
  • I see your point, though. I'm only playing Devil's Advocate on this one.
    – Makoto
    Oct 10, 2019 at 18:41
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    I didn't say my example contained a CoC violation. Only that it showed a very common use of pronouns throughout the system. Oct 10, 2019 at 19:14
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    @KateGregory - Your example reminds me of a lot of comments I've seen from people who speak languages other than English as their first language. Whether their primary language is gendered so everything gets gendered pronouns or their primary language isn't gendered at all so they aren't sure which pronouns apply (I sure felt that way back when learning German), there have been some interesting results. I can't see the new CoC interacting well in those cases.
    – Kate Paulk
    Oct 10, 2019 at 19:27
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    ESL is one reason I am not personally hurt when someone refers to me as "he". That said, if you comment "the OP says he tried that" and the OP or someone else comments "actually OP is a she" then it would be great if a mod could edit the comment (which they generally only do for CoC issues) or if the first commenter would be now aware. If the first commenter now comments again "but he doesn't want to do that" then this is a chance for a mod to teach that commenter not to even use pronouns if they don't know what they are doing. Oct 10, 2019 at 20:02
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    Alternative without pronoun: "Kate Gregory's answer already covered this. Did you try what's suggested there ?", no need to enforce someone to write in way this person isn't comfortable with by requiring the use of pronoun, but even that is a violation of the new COC per the faq :(
    – Tensibai
    Oct 10, 2019 at 21:26
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    Citation needed. The rumoured violation was "I won't use pronouns for people who I know use a pronoun I disagree with." That position has since been changed, but that was the rub at the time. There has been nothing to suggest any ordinary user would be in violation of the CoC for avoiding all pronoun use. Oct 10, 2019 at 21:42
  • @KateGregory As per question 11: We are asking everyone to use all stated pronouns as you would naturally write. Explicitly avoiding using someone’s pronouns because you are uncomfortable is a way of refusing to recognize their identity and is a violation of the Code of Conduct.
    – Alex
    Oct 10, 2019 at 22:53
  • question 11? Also, yes, refusing some people's pronouns because you are uncomfortable is bad. Not using pronouns is a different thing. Oct 10, 2019 at 23:50
  • Ah, Q11 on meta.stackexchange.com/questions/334900/… - at below -250 votes I never saw it. Note that Q12 explicitly addresses this: "Does this mean I’m required to use pronouns when I normally wouldn’t? We are asking everyone to use all stated pronouns as you would naturally write. You are not required to insert pronouns where you otherwise would not." So avoiding all pronoun use for everyone is not an issue. So your comment above claiming your rewording is a violation is actually incorrect. Oct 11, 2019 at 0:44

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