We often see the same language problems over and over again in the manuscripts we receive. Here we discuss some of the more common problem categories.
When we discuss experimental animals, we refer to them as males or females. When we discuss humans, however, we generally refer to them as men or women, and we use male and female as adjectives (male patients, female volunteers). When human subjects are of mixed ages, however, it becomes too cumbersome to describe them as, for example, women and girls and female infants, so we use males and females as nouns in those cases.
There was a time when we used man to represent all humans—male and female—but that usage fell into disfavor with the rise of feminism.“What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!” Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2, William Shakespeare
Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525-1569)