top of page

p.s. Did you know we have a Slack community for UX localization? Join right here – and don't forget to join the relevant language-specific channels, too. Can't wait to see you there!

To localize or not to localize: Making the right decision

15 May 2024

Localizing success messages: Creating local magic moments

7 April 2024

Achieving cross-company collaboration with Aglaia Pavlerou

20 February 2024

More to read

Great localization content in your inbox. Unsubscribe anytime.

You're in! Talk soon :)

In honor of Pride 2023, we've invited the brilliant Kinneret Yifrah to talk about gender-neutral writing in UX.

After writing gender-neutral guidelines for all government products in Israel, Kinneret shares her unique insights and experiences on the importance of gender-neutral language in UX and the challenges and potential solutions in implementing it.

This video is in Hebrew, but don't worry if you're not a Hebrew speaker, we've got you covered with English subtitles. Scroll on for the full English transcript.

Video [Hebrew with English subtitles]


Michal: So how are you?

Kinneret: I'm very good! And you?

Michal: Great! So, because we're recording this, and it's going to be public, I'll do an introduction, even though it's just you and me in the conversation.

Kinneret: Go ahead, go ahead.

Michal: So the reason we met and arranged this meeting is because this month is Pride, and I really wanted to do something related to non-gendered language, non-gendered writing, specifically in UX writing.

And because I'm in the localization space, I really wanted it to be available to the international community, because I feel like there are some gendered languages that deal with it heavily, like we do, we talk a lot about non-gendered writing, and I feel like there are languages that don't focus on it as much, and it's not as present in the conversation, and mostly there's less talk about the how - How much of it is possible, is it even possible.

And the spaces that deal with how to localize, or how to write, and don't deal with the writing itself, like, not the writers themselves, they deal with it even less.

Kinneret: What do you mean by how you do the writing, and not the writing itself? What does "how" mean?

Michal: For example, if you're a project manager, managing some kind of process, writing in several languages or even in one language, so – especially if it's several languages – you don't understand HOW to write, you don't understand what it MEANS to write in a non-gendered way.

Often you just know it's something you should do, and if your client isn't asking for it, you're not going to focus on it too much, because it's one more thing on your mind.

Kinneret: Okay.

Michal: And we don't really talk about how we can lead processes like this, how do we make them happen, how... I have all kinds of questions for you about that, but we don't really talk about these processes over time, and how they work. We just say it's something that should happen, and let's all be inclusive, but we don't talk about how to implement it.

Kinneret: Yes.

Michal: That's it. So that's why I really wanted to meet and talk about it, especially because you led such a comprehensive process, so in-depth, which also had, at least from where I'm looking, very significant implications on how we write in Israel in general, in UX, and how our government offices look online. And I would love it if you could start by talking about the project itself, and what it included...

Driving change towards gender-neutral writing

Kinneret: So there's a voice and tone guidelines for the government, which I wrote together with Digital Israel, which is now part of Digital Operations. And in this project, we included – and it was very clear that we were going to include – a chapter about equal writing, about writing for all genders. Writing microcopy for all genders. And we wrote this very comprehensive chapter, and there's a bit of a change, and I can't take all the credit for it.

Writing for all genders
Writing for all genders, from the Israeli Government Voice Guidelines:

And in a bit when we'll talk about how things like this come to be, how organizations... how there are organizations that do it, and organizations that don't, and what the difference is between them, I'll talk about what I think was the driving force behind the change.

So I really can't take all the credit for this change, there are others, like Daphna Eisenreich, who are leading a very, very big movement of change, and there was Michal Shomer's book, Non-Gendered Hebrew, which also made a very big difference, that word: "Welcome" that applies to both genders at the same time. Just people seeing the word "welcome" for both genders everywhere, including at the entrances to government offices, already makes people aware and creates a change, and people think about it, and...

So that's about the government. There's the voice and tone guidelines for the government, and it contains rules on writing for all genders, government offices do recognize that and use it, and it did make a difference. I can't say that it's the only thing that made a difference. It was a big part of it, but just a part still.

But in general, writing equal UX copy for all genders started because digital products started talking to users. They're now more than a machine referring to itself and addressing itself, they address the users directly. This happened in the past seven or eight years, a conversation came to be: between the product and the users. Both male and female. When we're speaking out loud in Hebrew, we don't have a way to refer to both in one word, so we have to choose.

And that's when the problem started, because, in gendered languages, where nouns are either masculine or feminine, we need to know the gender of the person we're addressing to speak to them. At least in a personal way.

Now, for government digital products – there are 3,000 products. So even if they would change some of them, even if they would only change the new ones, it'll be extremely hard to go back and change all of them. So some would stay as they were, some would change, the new ones are different, the new products are already being launched with non-gendered language, and we'll cover this soon, they are even sometimes launched in a way that lets men and women choose how... they're actually asked at the start how they would like to be addressed, we'll talk about that later, how to make that happen...

So yes, there's progress, a lot of progress, but I don't think they'll ever be able to go back and change all 3,000 products, I think it'll apply to products from now onwards, not retroactively, like a lot of transformations that take place through big processes like this.

Michal: So when you say that you decided to include a section on non-gendered Hebrew in the voice and tone guidelines, who was the one deciding? Who was involved in that decision?

Kinneret: That leads me to the first and - in my opinion - most important factor in whether it's going to happen or not. Whether our product will have equal language or not. The biggest question is this: Is there someone who owns that in the team.

This is where it starts and ends. If no one in the team owns that part, someone who really cares about this thing and is willing to fight for it, it won't happen. In my case, the one leading the entire voice and tone process with me, together, was Liron Libskind Mulyan, who was then at Digital Israel, today he's no longer there today, and he cared about it a lot. Deeply cared about it. He wanted there to be a section on it, I wanted there to be a section on it, of course, I had a partner to help me with it inside Digital Israel, and that's why there was a section on it.

Of course, during our discussions and conversations, as we wrote the voice and tone guidelines, we got everyone's agreement, and we discussed this with everybody, and we led this process, but there has to be someone within the team who really has a passion for it.

A bit after this I wrote Avodata, which is a product by the Ministry of Labor, and there, too, you can browse through professions, it's a product that makes all professions and learning pathways available to young people – not just young people, to anyone who's at a professional crossroads or facing a big professional decision.

Both genders available in Avodata
From Avodata:

And the person who led that was Evyatar, who found it very, very important that you will be able to view all profession names in both male and female forms, that you will be able to view the masculine and feminine form of engineer, the masculine and feminine form of architect, the masculine and feminine form of teacher. Actually, teacher reads the same for both. But nurse - masculine and feminine. Right? That all those professions that are stereotyped as meant for men or women, will be there in both male and female forms.

He led it, he cared about it, he was the owner of the product, he acquired the resources needed to get it done, he motivated people to do it, and he made a product where you could choose how you wanted to be addressed. He later added a questionnaire, and in it, you could also choose if you wanted to be addressed as male or female.

So there was someone who cared about it, who got the resources for it... There were development resources needed. It's a financial investment. There's a financial cost. And when there's an owner, it happens. That's really the biggest thing I can say about whether it's going to work. It'll work when someone really cares about it within the team.

And that's what happened in Digital Israel, in fact. Liron and I were there. And both of us really cared about this. And every person we talked to in the various government offices, we got them on board, too. We talked to a lot of people in government offices for the voice and tone guidelines. Obviously, as it represents the voice of the entire government. And... We got them on board, we got confirmation, and it went in. But that was led by people. A man or a woman who cares, that's the secret, if you ask me.

Getting everyone on board

Michal: But did you also face resistance?

Kinneret: No.

Michal: Really? Everyone just accepted it, despite the additional investment, despite the additional effort, it was just kind of obvious that this is what you're going to do?

Kinneret: No, so in the voice guidelines, the directive is just not to write in the masculine form, and it includes all the "usual" methods to avoid the masculine form in Hebrew. How to write in a way that's equal for all genders.

At Avodata, we did need development resources because they split the interface so that you could choose how you wanted to be addressed. For that, you need development resources. You don't have to go that far. They could have written male/female engineer. I mean, there are other ways to do this. They wanted it to be top-notch, so they did it this way, but you can also do it without a development resource. You can just write in non-gendered Hebrew, without using development resources. Using all those techniques that we know, with the letters ך and ה and all of those.

Michal: Now, I want to ask... From my experience in projects, both in government office projects that I did personally, but also in other projects... You write the voice guidelines, and the initial copy for the product, and everything looks nice and shiny, and then it goes out into the world, and they suddenly need to add a line, or need to add a headline, and someone adds it in quicklty... you know. And all sorts of things go in that you didn't mean to be there.

So how did this go? I mean, did the guidelines succeed in implementing or preserving writing for all genders? Or was it...

Kinneret: No. I mean, it's exactly the same thing. A product that is written... you described exactly what happens. The product that is written according to the guidelines, the big initial mass is really gender-free, and then all kinds of things come in.

So yes, you're asking about things that happened after I was done, or when I wasn't there to write them, some of them really are in masculine form. I think it's very noticeable that it's different from the other copy in the rest of the system, but I guess the general public doesn't notice this as much as we do. And it stands out, it does a little bit. But... But you know how it is. When you're a writer, not everything will go up. Not everything I write goes up.

So in this case, it was really about the gender, but it's something I'm letting go of – because I'm a freelance writer, and not in-house. If you're writing in-house, you can keep track and follow up after that, and fix and improve. As a freelance writer, I submit the content, I cross my fingers that it'll all go live, including error messages. Somehow those are the ones always left out, but I'm a bit used to it, that they change a bit after I'm done, and turn informal words to more formal ones, and then it sounds too formal, and I guess I'm a bit used to it already.

Michal: Yes. I have to say that... It's part of a different conversation, but... That's a big part of writing microcopy, giving it to people, giving them the content. It's an exercise in giving up control, right? Because... it'll never end up the way it was meant to be. It's true for copywriting too, by the way. Not just UX writing. They always make changes, and then you're like... cringe, you have to hold yourself back from sending them an angry message.

Kinneret: Absolutely. Absolutely. A while ago a friend sent me a screenshot, and she asked me, "did you write this?" It was in the government "My account" zone, which I also wrote a big part of.

So "did you write this?" And I told her, it really sounds like me but I would never write "due to". So something doesn't... something doesn't add up. And that's what happened. They turned my "because of" to "due to". They thought it was too low-brow, "because of". You know? It was really funny. But what can you do.

Michal: It's like when someone sends you a project you did, and you have the urge to write, yes! I wrote this! ...but they changed... they changed things since then.

Kinneret: Exactly. In your portfolio we need to use what we wrote, and not what was actually launched at the end.

Michal: In my early days I'd take screenshots. I'd save screenshots so that I'd have fresh versions, before they'll make their changes.

But if we go back to the topic, I'm interested to know, because I've actually seen, in the past years, a certain movement, that when you talk to clients, government or otherwise, it comes from them, a little bit. They do want it to be non-gendered, sometimes they don't notice that it's gendered. It's like a sense you need to develop. Right. But they do want it. And the question is, do you think that this movement is linked to this stamp of approval that these voice guidelines became? Because it is a significant, very formal stamp of approval. Making this possible.

Kinneret: I'm not sure everyone knows the government's voice guidelines. We do, in the community, we've heard of it and work with it, but I don't think most of the clients asking for non-gendered language do it because of the government voice guidelines. I think it's very much connected to the work of Daphna Eisenreich, Dabru Elenu, and she is very, very public about it, and it's always talked about, and... I think it's much more connected to our work in the community, and to Dafna's work, and Vered Huri's work, who's also working on it, so there are a number of activity centers, who are in contact with very large customers, with very large organizations, who do this work, and drive this change. I'm not sure it's linked to the government's guidelines.

And I think it's these actions that drive the change, and it's now... It's now considered unreasonable to write in the masculine, it's considered old-fashioned. But it's several actions that made this unacceptable to write in the masculine. It's going to be shared in some group, in Dabru Elenu, in Kinneret's group, it's going to be shared somewhere, and they'll talk about you, if you write in the masculine. So I think that's what... At the end, that's what drove the change. That... That it's unacceptable. That it's not OK to write in the masculine.

And... It's very welcome, in my opinion. But I think that's it. It's true that the government guidelines makes this more official, but I think it's actually from the ground up, and not from the top down. That is, the fact that the field doesn't accept it anymore is what makes the people in charge and brands reluctant to be in the spotlight like that. Not be those that get criticized in the groups for writing in the masculine.

Michal: Although, I have to say that this... Israeli brands, being from here, naturally care more about what the Israeli public thinks. But for international brands, we're just a dot on their global growth map. Right. And so they don't care about it as much. It's not something that's on the agenda at all, because it's like, it's just ten million people living in this small country, and we don't care if it's gendered or not. Or what they think of us.

Kinneret: Right. But I think what big brands don't understand is that those who localize into a lot of languages... it's not just Hebrew. It's the full ten million, because Arabic is also gendered, So it's anyone living in Israel. but it's not just that, 40% of the world's population speaks a gendered language. So if you create the infrastructure that allows you to split your copy by gender, you'll be able to adapt the language to fit 40% of the world's population. So this platform isn't for ten million people, it's for 40% of the world's population. I'm not going to calculate how much 40% of the world's population is, but I think Arabic speakers alone are around 300 million.

Michal: That's right. Though there are some problems here because gender comes through differently in various languages.

Creating the infrastructure

Kinneret: Yes. But if they created the infrastructure that allows me to choose how I want to be addressed, they wouldn't even have to create their copy using non-gendered language. They could write in the masculine and feminine, and maybe even in a third gender, if possible, and that's it, you see?

So creating the infrastructure, which they did, by the way, in both Android and iOS, there's already the option to split by gender. We can talk about that later. So if you made it possible to... if that becomes common practice, to write two or three strings for each spot, masculine and feminine, and a neutral form if it exists, that should be the common practice, and you wouldn't need to force non-gendered writing.

Although in Hebrew we're stuck because we only have two genders, and what will we do with the neutral form? We're still stuck. But even if we only have two genders, and I can switch from one to the other at any time, if I'm non-binary, that's great. That also works. Not ideal, but we don't have a neutral form. We can't invent a third neutral form.

So I think that, take Microsoft for example, there's no reason that Microsoft won't have my pronoun, set in their operating system, and they'll show me the right masculine or feminine forms. There's no reason that can't happen. And that's relevant for 40% of the population. So the fact that they're not doing it is really strange.

That's what I mean, to have the option to choose, based on my pronoun.

Language innovation

Michal: So I really want to talk about technology, but before we move on to technology, because it's a big topic, what are your thoughts on inventing a third neutral form? Because there are languages where that's done. They actually invent another way to use words.

Kinneret: Right. They do, but it hasn't been... for now, it's still... experimental. Like we use dots or slashes, or the non-gendered Hebrew font. These are all experimental methods still. Even adding a third neutral form, I've yet to hear of a language where this truly caught on. There are all kinds of experiments, but it still leads to a lot of opposition from all sorts of language purists.

So should we invent a third neutral form? Maybe, I don't know. I don't think it's something that can be decided. I think if it has to happen, it will happen. No one is going to wait for the Academy of Hebrew Language to decide. And if it has to happen, it will happen, and someone will invent it, and if it catches on, it catches on, and if it doesn't, it doesn't, and...

I don't think we'll have a choice in the end, because... the masculine and feminine forms are simply not enough. They don't reflect reality. And if they don't reflect reality... Language has to reflect reality. It can't be... we use it to convey reality. So it can't not reflect reality. Which means that in the end, it will have to happen, I don't know if it will happen in our lifetime, and in what way, I don't know.

Let's take, for example, the plural imperative form. Today we only use it in the masculine. "Come", "go", all masculine. There used to be two forms, we had a feminine plural imperative form for "come" and "go" and so on.

Michal: That's right.

Kinneret: We cancelled the feminine form. We now only use masculine, and it works well for us. To use that form for both masculine and feminine. We're good with it. So what if we decided to cancel all forms of plural feminine? So the plural "you" would have worked for all genders. No separate feminine form. And that would have been the correct way to use it. It could solve this for us.

It will be very difficult for us to change the direct, first-person form of "you". That will be very difficult to change. But say we figure out a solution for plural forms. If we had a solution for plurals, it would have helped a lot. We can address users in the plural, and it'd be gender-free

Michal: And we can say it's a movement that's starting to happen because we are using plurals today when we want to stay non-gendered.

Kinneret: Exactly. We use it today because we don't have a choice. But maybe we can actually cancel the other form. Like we did with the plural imperative. Then we can address people in the plural and stay non-gendered, and that's another bit of progress. It's a good question. What will people choose to do? How will it happen?

I don't invent things, but I do try what's invented. Like using the dot method for gender neutrality, sometimes I use the dot. Sometimes I use both suffixes. I try all the options, and I wait for something to catch on, for a method we can keep using.

I don't really accept the whole readability claim, where people say it's hard for them to read with a dot separator. It's hard to read it because we're not used to it. It's not... If we learn it from the get-go, we'll get used to it, like, from age six. If we learn to use it when we learn how to read, we'll get used to it, and it'll be perfectly fine. I don't think it's a fundamental problem. It's just a matter of getting used to it. But we'll see.

Michal: We'll have to adapt all the easy reader classics. I don't know if we can do that. Where do you put the dot? [Laughs] But seriously, my main issue with dots, and slashes, and all of those methods, is that it works when you read the text, but it doesn't work when you speak. You can't read it.

Kinneret: Right. And then, on the other hand, we have the option of using plurals. In English, we have "they" and "them", people just choose to switch their pronouns.

Michal: Right. And it doesn't work as well in Hebrew, or at least, as far as I know, people don't really use it.

Kinneret: Right. Because even "they" and "them" is gendered in Hebrew. It doesn't solve the problem. It's still gendered. It doesn't work.

With anything related to voice, we'll have to solve this problem by splitting our UI. There won't be a choice. They'll have to start by asking how you'd like to be addressed and split the UI into masculine and feminine, unless we choose to use plural. But it's a bit ridiculous to use plural when you address one person using voice. So there they will have to split things, and maybe that would create that common practice of offering two gendered interface options.

I'm really interested to know - what would big companies do in terms of localizing voice interfaces. I'm curious to know what they're doing today. Do you know? For example, Microsoft's Cortana, which speaks French, German, gendered languages. What does it do? Do you know?

Michal: I don't know, actually. And it's a very interesting question. I'll try and ask this on LinkedIn. My voice assistants are always in English, so I don't know how they work in other languages. But it's really interesting, and in general...

Using technology to stay gender-neutral

Let's start talking about technology because I'm interested in knowing what you can use today, but also... we're at the start of a huge technological revolution, which will probably also give us a lot more flexibility in this regard. So how will our future look, in your opinion?

Kinneret: Okay. So, today what technology allows us to do is to split the UI and write each string in two or three forms: feminine, masculine, and a neutral form, if it exists, so that we can offer several setting options and ask every user how they'd like to be addressed.

That's the most advanced technology we have today, and today, when we start using AI, it feels so outdated. So outdated. Because I think it's clear that with AI, in Hebrew, we still don't have AI, which is very sad. I hope we will soon. There is a little bit, but not at the same level. Not the really high-end models that we have in English today. And I have no doubt that today you can ask ChatGPT to write a full, gender-neutral text, and it'll do it. Gender-neutral.

You can pass anything through it, asking it to turn it gender-neutral. What did it do when you tried? Change the suffix in "shirt" to make it masculine?

Michal: Yes. I have to say that I tried in English too. I didn't try switching the gender because English is very easy to keep gender-neutral. It's not that big of a challenge. But I did try to get it to write about inclusive writing and non-gender writing. It didn't understand what it even means, "inclusive."

It kept trying to explain to me that I don't have to write the word "guys" in my article because people will be offended, because "guys" is masculine, so write "folks" instead. It loves the word "folks." It bothers me a lot. Really, it said: So when you write, use words that don't have a gender, and that's it, and your problem is solved. It doesn't understand what it means at all.

I assume it's because it has been trained in English, so it's hard for it to really understand the challenge of it. And it certainly wasn't trained on texts that describe these challenges because it's not the kind of texts that are available in English online.

Kinneret: Right. I would ask him about gendered languages, if it knows, in the languages it does know well and was trained on, like German, French, and so on. Latin languages, yes.

Michal: It's interesting. Also, the way people use ChatGPT today, it won't be effective in the flow of localization because we're talking about a lot of texts, and everything is becoming very automated. Things are practically happening on their own now.

Kinneret: If they bring GPT's capabilities into the tools used for localization, sure. Without having to manually feed everything into ChatGPT.

Michal: Then you can set up a "fence" that'll stop texts before they go in and check if they're gendered. It's an interesting question. Because we're really at the very beginning, and only the early adopters are trying at the moment. Experimenting with all of these changes.

Gender-neutrality in localization

Kinneret: But you know, it's funny - I'm surprised the whole gender issue isn't more present, especially in the localization community. Because... And I only discovered this when we did the Gender Neutral Language Project, with all those videos.

I discovered that this isn't something people in localization speak about that much. And I don't understand how that's possible. It's not just the 10 million Israelis who speak Hebrew, it's hundreds of millions of people speaking a gendered language. How can that be, that it's not discussed more?

I'm asking you now. What do you think? Why? Why isn't this on the agenda all the time? Gender inclusivity... It's a hot topic. It's a very hot topic. So how isn't it in localization?

Michal: First of all, I think that culturally, how do I put this? The level of candidness and how much people are willing to insist on things is different. And I'm sure there are places where women's status is different. I think that the privilege we have in discussing non-gendered language is a result of the fact that we're already, in many ways, getting past that glass ceiling, in many ways starting to break. Career-wise, family-wise all of that. And so we have the privilege to come and discuss gendered vs. non-gendered.

Kinneret: I completely understand what you're saying. We have the availability and freedom for it.

Michal: Yes.

Kinneret: That might have been true, but it's also French or German or Czech. And it's a topic that's just now starting to get some public attention, even in very widespread, very western languages. And I was very surprised to discover that 40% of the world's population speaks a defined language. I told myself, so how is it that we feel so alone in this? Right? Like we're the only ones stuck with this Hebrew, and it's not just us at all.

In German they talk about it a lot. In Italian they published a book about it recently, a whole book about how to write non-gendered in Italian.

Michal: Amazing.

Kinneret: But only now, and I also hear this discussed by writers and less by localizers. It's really something that, if you look at it in localization, it would be very cool, because I've been hearing this from writers... this book in Italian... it's all by UX writers. Not as much by localizers.

Michal: I have to say that many times in localization, it's exactly this, it's availability. The amount of time you have to think about gender strategies is very small, because in the end you get a text and you're told to translate it, quickly and cheaply, and those are the client's instructions.

And they're the client instructions, because the client, in many cases, comes from a country where the language isn't gendered. And it's not their top priority. And so gender isn't mentioned, or they write, "we want to be inclusive, because we want everybody to feel accepted", like, someone copied and pasted that line from their voice guidelines, and no one actually cares. And also, no one can really check that it happens. That's true.

Kinneret: And there are also varying degrees of training in localization, there are places in the world where you would have to get a translation degree to work as a translator, and there are places where all you have to do... It's like here, right? You just say "I'm a translator", and then you can start working as a translator.

And so the levels of knowledge and training are different, and people just don't talk about issues that are more complex than those initial classic translation issues. I can say that I do mention this in my course, there's one lesson dedicated to this, among a few other topics. I do think that your project at the UXCC, the Content Collective, actually made a very significant impact, because it's... first of all it's one of the first results on Google.

Kinneret: Really?

Michal: Yes. If you search for non-gendered writing, or all sorts of examples and guidance on how to write, it comes right up.

Kinneret: Right. We got, I got emails from localization teams around the world saying that they passed it amongst themselves, that they're using it. I know the project had an impact. Which I'm very happy about.

Again, even if it's just awareness, I'm very, very happy about it. But there are also a lot of practical tools.

Michal: In the end, I think it's really a question of awareness, because people sometimes don't even think about this little detail. It's really a little detail among many, many details that we need to consider as we work, both in writing and in localization. And people don't take time to do this, and then when someone comes and puts a spotlight on it all of a sudden they start thinking about it, and consider it in their day-to-day. And this alone has a huge impact.

Kinneret: Absolutely. The Awareness is... You're absolutely right. It's true that people have that penny drop moment, and they're like, oh, right... we just didn't think about it. Of course, we need this. And then, if they also get the tools, like, if tools are included, and an owner, which is no less important, then it can happen.

But I think it's these three things: You need awareness, you need someone who cares about it, because otherwise it's like "ok, but we don't have time, or budget, or..." So you do need someone who cares about it. And tools. That is, the knowledge of how to do it. Like, ok, here's how do you write in Hebrew in a gender-neutral way. Five methods. Just like that. So you also need the tools and methods of how to get it done.

Taking responsibility - as much as possible

Michal: So on the subject of ownership, I'm bringing us back to the beginning, we'll go full circle.

So let's assume that we're writing a project, and we really want it to be gendered, and we do what we can on our own, as the writers who write the first part of the project, and then someone comes and takes it forward, and maybe they don't really care as much. How much would you insist if this happens?

Kinneret: Today, I wouldn't write something that's not gender-neutral. If in the past... My first client was a bank, Bank Hapoalim, which, today they're the leaders of... In their app, you can choose how you'd like to be addressed, and then the entire app is written in feminine Hebrew when I log in. So today they are very advanced in this field.

Question: How would you like to be addressed
"How would you like to be addressed?" - From Bank Hapoalim

When I started UX writing for them years ago, they were my first client, they said, "we want it in masculine Hebrew." And I wrote in masculine Hebrew. Today I would never do that. Well, no one would ask me to write in masculine Hebrew today. But if someone would have told me, "we want the whole application in masculine Hebrew," I'd say, no, thank you, and we'll go our separate ways. Today I wouldn't do such a thing; it would seem absurd to me.

So, to answer your question, if someone would take it forward, how much would I care? I would care a lot. As long as it's mine, and it's under my name, my name, or my company's, Draft, there's no way we'd put our name on something written just in masculine Hebrew, and we all really, really insist on it.

So, yes, I'd insist on it a lot. It's not something we'd let go.

Michal: And say you've finished the project, and you've sort of released it into the world, and then it starts to appear there?

Kinneret: There's nothing to do. We have nothing to do with it. Like, there's no way... We have no way to follow our projects.

The clients that we... Our clients have been with us for the long haul. Bank Hapoalim, they're Amir's customers, my partner, for a very long time, and Maccabi is with us, and Isracard is with us, and so in that sense, we're with them throughout the process, and then this can't happen. We're with them. We're permanently with them, and then things like that won't happen.

But the clients we do a single project for, we know there are going to be things that... It's not just... I told you, it's not just the gender issue, there are a lot of other things that... you don't even want to hear. Things we don't want to see in an app that we wrote. But there's nothing to do with it. Like we said at the beginning, it's an exercise in letting go of control. It's not ours, and it's their decision, and if they don't understand the value of having a professional writer review every word and check and approve it... that's life.

Michal: And that sums up the whole experience of UX writing in general, I think.

Kinneret: Totally.

Michal: We can sign off on this conversation now.

Kinneret: Totally.

Michal: But it was really interesting. Thank you so much for sharing, and I hope I'll be able to translate it into English so that more people will be able to...

Kinneret: Good luck! Good luck translating the gendered forms of "shirt"!

Michal: Thank you! And thank you again for being here.

Fireside chat: Gender-neutral writing in UX with Kinneret Yifrah

In honor of Pride 2023, we've invited the brilliant Kinneret Yifrah to talk about gender-neutral writing in UX. After writing...

Michal Kessel Shitrit



bottom of page