Research articles in English are read and composed by individuals from many lingua-cultural backgrounds; this diversity in the users of English as an academic lingua franca is likely to increase further with the rise of open access (OA) publishing. In the light of this, a pertinent question is how gender is constructed in international research articles. This study examines OA articles (N = 1003) with respect to the use of epicene pronouns, third-person singular pronouns of indeterminate gender. The analysis of pronominal reference shows that the non-gendered singular they was the most common pronoun overall, closely followed by gendered he or she forms. The use of generic he also occurred with some frequency. Further, the study investigates what kinds of author guidelines OA journals have for the use of gender-fair language. The analysis reveals that specific guidelines were generally uncommon, and that there was no immediate correspondence between policy and practice in cases where journals provided guidelines. Taken together, the findings disclose a state of flux in the use of epicene pronouns in OA articles. A key issue in international publishing and journal editing is thus to raise awareness about gendered language through guidelines and submission checklists.
- academic writing
- gender-inclusive language
- Open Access
- ELF (English as lingua franca)