On the word 'guys'

Hey, folks.

Please stop referring to mixed-gender groups of people as 'guys' (or even 'dudes').


Because it makes some people feel uncomfortable. Words mean things. Words have connotations. It doesn't in any way make me feel uncomfortable, because I'm a bloke. Chances are it doesn't make you feel uncomfortable either because you're probably either:

  1. A bloke
  2. Consider 'guys' a gender-neutral term

Despite point 2 above, some people still feel uncomfortable with it.

But Nobody I Know Is Uncomfortable With It

That you know of. This may be due to them not knowing you very well, or it might very well be to fit in with the guys. Some people may not like it but not feel it important enough to bring the subject up.

This was evidenced the other week, when a coworker brought up how they felt uncomfortable with the phrase, and as a welcome thank-you for this, was faced with several people vehemently arguing for the continued usage of guys, even to the point of demanding a tally of the amount of people who felt uncomfortable with the phrase in order to totally-objectively weigh up whether it would be worth avoiding using a single word. No wonder people don't want to bring it up.

Considering how many readily available alternatives there are, there really is no good reason to keep using it. If it makes one person feel more welcome or included, to me, it's worth it.

So what are these alternatives?

In many cases, what you're about to say or type sounds entirely reasonable on its own.

If addressed to a group: "Hey guys, can you have a look at this?" = "Hey, can you have a look at this?"

Although in some cases, it can sound a bit awkward. Here are some substitutes:

  • folks (my preferred alternative)
  • team
  • y'all (whether you can get away with this one depends on your accent)
  • people
  • peeps
  • gang
  • posse
  • squad
  • everyone
  • everybody
  • crew
  • pals

If you have Slack, this is a cool autoresponder to set up.

But A Woman I Know Uses Guys All The Time And Argues Vehemently For The Continued Usage Of Guys

Many of my friends and colleagues who identify as women are avid users of the word guys. However, people aren't the same. Just because most women are comfortable with it doesn't mean everyone is, and it's ludicrously sexist to assume that everybody shares that opinion based solely on their identified gender.

Does using the word 'guys' make me a bad person?

No. It's something that's ingrained in most people. I sometimes slip up and use it. Vehemently insisting on deliberately using it after learning it makes some people uncomfortable is another thing. You should examine why you do that.

Does this mean I can't refer to my group of exclusively male friends as "the guys"?

No. That's cool. Next.

Why should we bother arguing about something as insignificant as a word? Why can't we just address gender inequality and be done with it?

If everybody sat back and waited until all the world's problems were fixed, nothing would ever get done. This is a relatively small thing to argue about in the grand scheme of things, but it's a small step towards being more inclusive and welcoming towards as many people as possible.