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November 27, 1991

The Eternal Battle of Sex vs Gender

Author Affiliations

Kendall Park, NJ

Kendall Park, NJ

JAMA. 1991;266(20):2833. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470200045026

To the Editor.  —I consider JAMA to be a standard setter for accepted grammar and usage. Therefore, I was disturbed to see your use of the word gender for sex (definition of Matching in "Instructions for Preparing Structured Abstracts").1 This incorrect usage is becoming widespread, as if sex were a dirty word. Perpetuating such usage implies sanction. Gender is a grammatical term referring to words, which in some languages are masculine, feminine, or neuter. Sex refers to the biological characteristic of being male or female. The New York Times' publication Winners & Sinners succinctly reminds writers and editors that "words have gender. People, bless their hearts, have sex."