Stop Dehumanizing People With Your Writing

It angers me. I know they don’t mean it, but it still angers me.

I read a lot as a writer and professor and I see it all the time. People are dehumanizing other people with their words. Sheer obliviousness. I continually read sentences with the words,

“People that…”
“A woman that ….
“Voters that…”

.. and so on ad infinitum.

I am no grammar nazi but… a person is a “who” not a “that!”

This is more than a question of grammar; it is an issue of how we think about ourselves and our fellow human beings.

Correct thinking and grammar include sentences with words such as:

“Potatoes that…”
“Shirts that…
“Lizards that…”

The word “that” is appropriate for non-human objects. A person is not a non-human object.

A woman is not a potato. A man is not a shirt. Voters are not lizards. People are not objects. People are people. It is correct thinking and grammar to refer to a person as a “who.” When you call a person a “that,” you are unconsciously dehumanizing them and yourself. You are a human who deserves to be referred to as such.

You may say that this is a small matter and that I am being nit picky, but little things like this add up and make a difference. How we express ourselves and how we hear how others refer to us have effects. Words matter. Are you referring to people or not?

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