A writing guide at Purdue University advises students to avoid words with “man” in them — such as “mailman” and “mankind” — in order to write “in a non-sexist, non-biased way.”
“Although MAN in its original sense carried the dual meaning of adult human and adult male, its meaning has come to be so closely identified with adult male that the generic use of MAN and other words with masculine markers should be avoided,” the guide states.
“Writing in a non-sexist, non-biased way is both ethically sound and effective,” it advises. “Non-sexist writing is necessary for most audiences; if you write in a sexist manner and alienate much of your audience from your discussion, your writing will be much less effective.”
According to the guide, “mankind” should be replaced with words such as “humanity,” “people,” and “human beings,” and “mailman” should be replaced with “mail carrier.” One of the other words it cautions against is “man-made,” suggesting that students use instead the word “synthetic,” “manufactured,” or “machine-made.”