Today in the Washington State Legislature, Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles et al. presented a bill to make "technical corrections to gender-based terms" in state codes. The bill would correct gender bias in hundreds of codes, for example:

The committee shall from time to time elect a ((chairman)) chair from among its members and adopt rules to govern its procedures… In judicial districts comprising more than one county, the reporter shall receive his or her actual and necessary expenses of transportation and living expenses when he or she goes on official business to a county of his or her judicial district other than the county in which he or she resides, from the time he or she leaves his or her place of residence until he or she returns thereto, said expense to be paid by the county to which he or she travels… Whenever any safe deposit company shall take or receive as bailee for hire and for safekeeping or storage any jewelry, plate, money, specie, bullion, stocks, bonds, mortgages, securities, or valuable paper of any kind, or other valuable personal property, and shall have issued a receipt therefor, it shall be deemed to be a ((warehouseman)) warehouse operator as to such property and the provisions… and be enforceable in the same manner as is now provided with reference to ((warehousemen)) warehouse operators in said act.
You get the idea. Yawn, right? This is an old debate, and these amendments just tie up some old loose ends—clearly, a formal code, whose context calls for excessive specificity, shouldn't lazily invoke the universal he (which, btw, was actually invented by some chick). It's not like brevity or beauty are high standards in state code. At the same time, for those of us who appreciate the aesthetics and flow of language in addition to its accuracy, this cumbersome he or she business is cringeworthy. In the context of state codes, cumbersome is virtually required; in journalism and storytelling, we need a different standard. So thank god for The Chicago Manual of Style.

Follow the jump for Chicago's advice for writers and editors on why it's important to avoid biased language (mainly credibility), complete with an understanding that correctness shouldn't be the sole standard for bias-free writing, and nine techniques for achieving gender neutrality. Yum.

5.221 Maintaining credibility. Discussions of bias-free language—language that is neither sexist nor suggestive of other conscious or subconscious prejudices—have a way of descending quickly into politics. But there is a way to avoid the political quagmire: if we focus solely on maintaining credibility with a wide readership, the argument for eliminating bias from published works becomes much simpler. Biased language that is not central to the meaning of a work distracts readers, and in their eyes the work is less credible. Few texts warrant the deliberate display of linguistic biases. Nor is it ideal, however, to call attention to the supposed absence of linguistic biases, since this will also distract readers and weaken credibility.
5.224 Bias and the editor’s responsibility. …What you should strive for—if you want readers to focus on your ideas and not on the political subtext—is a style that doesn’t even hint at the issue. So unless you’re involved in a debate about, for example, sexism, you’ll probably want a style, on the one hand, that no reasonable person could call sexist and, on the other hand, that never suggests you’re contorting your language to be nonsexist.
5.225 Nine techniques for achieving gender neutrality. There are many ways to achieve gender-neutral language, but it takes some thought and often some hard work. Nine methods are suggested below because no single method will work for every writer. And one method won’t neatly resolve every gender-bias problem. Some of them—for example, repeating the noun or using “he or she”—will irritate readers if overused. All of them risk changing the intended meaning: though slight changes in meaning are inevitable, additional rewording may be necessary.
1. Omit the pronoun: the programmer should update the records when data is transferred to her by the head office becomes the programmer should update the records when data is transferred by the head office.
2. Repeat the noun: a writer should be careful not to needlessly antagonize readers, because her credibility will suffer becomes a writer should be careful not to needlessly antagonize readers, because the writer’s credibility will suffer.
3. Use a plural antecedent: a contestant must conduct himself with dignity at all times becomes contestants must conduct themselves with dignity at all times.
4. Use an article instead of a personal pronoun: a student accused of cheating must actively waive his right to have his guidance counselor present becomes a student accused of cheating must actively waive the right to have a guidance counselor present.
5. Use the neutral singular pronoun one: an actor in New York is likely to earn more than he is in Paducah becomes an actor in New York is likely to earn more than one in Paducah.
6. Use the relative pronoun who (works best when it replaces a personal pronoun that follows if): employers presume that if an applicant can’t write well, he won’t be a good employee becomes employers presume that an applicant who can’t write well won’t be a good employee.
7. Use the imperative mood: a lifeguard must keep a close watch over children while he is monitoring the pool becomes keep a close watch over children while monitoring the pool.
8. Use he or she (sparingly): if a complainant is not satisfied with the board’s decision, then he can ask for a rehearing becomes if a complainant is not satisfied with the board’s decision, then he or she can ask for a rehearing.
9. Revise the clause: a person who decides not to admit he lied will be considered honest until someone exposes his lie becomes a person who denies lying will be considered honest until the lie is exposed.