61

In an online group chat, sometimes I say "See ya later, guys!". Of course, not all of them are "guys". Some are "gals". But for efficiency (read: lazy), I usually just say "guys".

I wonder if this is acceptable in an online culture, especially with the swarm of new gender pronouns that I'm currently oblivious about.

It should only take a little effort to add "gals" to the end of the sentence, but I don't know how to react to those who prefer other gender pronouns.

As additional info, I don't know whether the participants are all males, or there are females participants. We are all just members and don't know each other personal information.

Update: We also not discussing things such as politic, or sensitive issue regarding gender or adult content.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Ælis, avazula, ElizB, sphennings, Alina Cretu Nov 22 '18 at 6:50

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    I would love to see data on this one way or the other, although I assume that that might be hard to come by. – HDE 226868 Aug 28 '17 at 19:50
  • What kind of content? In general I doubt anyone cares or would take issue, due to online anonymity. But if discussing adult content or gender-controversial subjects, that would be another matter. – user3169 Aug 28 '17 at 20:00
  • 2
    it would be interesting -- yet impossible -- to see the ratio of men/women who think "of course 'guys' is gender-neutral!" vs "no, it's not ok!" vs a silent "no comment". Namely, the folks -- or guys? -- who just don't feel like constantly defending themselves against an unrelenting tide of intentional & unintentional bias that unquestionably exists, but is easily forgotten/ignored -- by some...well, guys. – michael Aug 29 '17 at 3:44
  • 2
    Related MSO question. – Ave Aug 29 '17 at 8:23
  • 2

18 Answers 18

75

Sure, it's fine to use it, guys!

It's fine as long as it's informal. I use it all the time, even at work among colleagues of either sex. I have heard it being used almost my entire life, every city I've been to, as long as it's informal and it's an English-speaking crowd.

Avoid using guys in formal situations.

Guys -- Oxford Dictionaries

(informal) noun 1.1. people of either sex.
Example: "you guys want some coffee?"

NOTE:

Guy is not the same as Guys. Guys is commonly used to address people of either sex. Guy, on the other hand, not so much. Guy (singular) is mostly for men.

NOTE 2:

a group of people can be guys, even if they’re all female.

Vocabulary.com

Further reading: A dozen posts on ELU

0

To add an alternative answer in amplification of the "it depends" tone of some of the answers given above - some groups of people will not like it. Whether that is likely with the group you deal with is something you are better able to judge than we may be.

But, for example, I am rather older than the 18 - 44 demographic and I am also a British English speaker. When I grew up "guys" carried a fairly strong male tone. While language evolves, it is hard for me to be addressed as a "guy" and not feel gendered in a way that I might not with another term (someone in my dialect 20 years younger than I am might have said "peeps" for instance).

So, I rather dislike it. I suspect that is more likely a feeling to be shared by people not in the core dialect group for "guy" as gender neutral (others have suggested a US usage) or older people.

As always this is a matter of judgment. It is clear that many do hear it in a gender neutral way. I would still suggest thinking about something which doesn't appear odd to anyone.

  • 1
    Welcome, Francis! Should we assume that you're female? I know both men and women with the name "Francis" so I wasn't sure. – Catija Feb 21 '18 at 22:26
  • Well, I think almost everyone would say I was a man but it hasn't felt like it ought to be relevant for quite a while. Since gender is essentially what other people think about me, then I guess the answer is no. But I personally I prefer not to be gendered. I know others who do identify as female who really wouldn't like to be included as "guys" (in roughly my demographic) so it's not just me. I'm not a good data point. – Francis Davey Feb 21 '18 at 22:51
  • @Catija - hopefully a helpful comment: there is a reasonably consistent usage in many places that "Frances" is female and "Francis" is male in English (this obviously doesn't work in other languages). Not everyone is consistent about it, but it's reasonably well established. Hence "Pope Francis" but my aunt "Frances" (and my great grandmother and her mother and cousin and... many others). – Francis Davey Feb 21 '18 at 22:54
  • I think that how you identify is actually quite important to the discussion, at least as important as your age. :) It's really valuable to know who we're hurting when we use certain terms. I'm het/cis female and mid-30s, American... I don't usually have issues with it but I'm certainly curious who does have problems with it. The way you write, it sounds like we should assume you're not male, which is why I asked the question. If you consider yourself non-binary, that's an important viewpoint, too. – Catija Feb 21 '18 at 22:55
  • Thanks for the info! I'd never noticed the spelling difference before. – Catija Feb 21 '18 at 22:55
1

It's a microaggression.

Using a male collective noun to refer to a group implies that you think the 'default' member of the group is male, and any exceptions aren't important enough for you to break your habits and use a more accurate, more inclusive term.

In isolation, this is 'not a big deal'. It's not abuse, it's not a slur, it's not deliberate and conscious exclusion. But microaggressions happen all day every day, from a thousand different sources, and taken together, they form an exhausting background noise to the tune of 'if you are not male, you are not one of us'.

The reason it's considered socially acceptable is because the people who are bothered by it don't want to speak out. They run the risk of being labeled 'abrasive' or 'uppity', and even if you stop, their life won't perceptibly improve until everyone stops.

No one will call you on it, but you can do better.

2

"Guys" refers to males (see this, principal definition as male, and this.) The general problem is that the English language does not have a universal second person plural pronoun distinct from the singular pronoun "you". Using a colloquial phrase such as "you guys" is subject to negative connotations based on the origins and history of the phrase. In your original citation, I'd recommend saying "See you later" or "See you all later."

0

There are a number of (laziness-friendly) alternatives available. Use ppl, peeps, y'all, or folk as alternatives that don't even go near gender issues.

Or there's the perennial (Australian?) youse as in: "C youse l8r". Can't get much shorter than that.

EDIT: Should have looked through the other answers first. Jack Acne beat me to it, but I added more alternatives.

4

The term 'guys' is a regionalism, used to mean "a group of people" in much of the US, and (because Hollywood) increasingly throughout the English-speaking world.

In the UK, few communities will tell you off for the term "guys" implying that the group is actually comprised of mannequins designed to be burned on a bonfire; in the US, few will tell you off for implying it is comprised of males.

There are some online subcultures which do object to gendered regionalisms like this - and speaking of regionalisms, I'm not sure why, but this class of communities seems to be very much a California thing. They're not a Left-wing thing, though: I very much doubt you'll ever encounter this in any Austin-based community, for example!

In general, though, any online subculture which has a policy of shaming any terms of regionalized speech such as "youse guys", "guys", "folks", "chaps" or "y'all" is discriminatory, unpleasant, and toxic: such communities are to be avoided and censured.

These communities will typically be exceptionally elitist, but will often claim the policies are there to try to "reduce discrimination": the true purpose and actual effect however, is to alienate, externalize and drive out those who do not speak the appropriate shibboleths. This in turn has a chilling effect on casual speech.

One of the reliable signs of a friendly online community is that regionalized speech will in all cases be embraced and broadly welcomed, and this can even be represented in official policies requiring linguistic tolerance.

Linguistic differences and confusions over terms which are regionally offensive, are not only tolerated but discussed with delight at the differences, rather than offense; intended meaning by the speaker is always given priority over etymology, offensive or otherwise.

So people will laugh at how "a pat on the fanny" is remarkably more offensive in the UK, without censuring the person who said it in the first place.

Such practices strongly encourage people to express their diversity, to feel free expressing themselves comfortably as casual speech, and in turn drives community involvement by those who are not "first-language English".

If someone means to give offense, they can do so just as well using words that carry no negative etymological or phonetic baggage; "you fail to understand common English usage, which reflects poorly both upon you, and upon your teachers."

And people can use words with this negative baggage in non-offensive ways: "The company's niggardly meal allowance has become a tar-baby. Call me a blackguard, but I'll use the money for fags and a picnic for the guys instead!" (though since this sentence has been deliberately crafted to have a high density of potentially-offensive terms, so could be taken as a deliberate troll). Any community which takes offense at any of those words in isolation, though, is certainly a community to avoid.

In short: if it causes offense, best to avoid the offended community.

If concerned, pick another term instead: when in doubt, I like to use "peeps".

1

Great question, and the fact that you are asking it suggests that perhaps a small inner voice says there could be a better choice. Online forums are quite often dominated by people who find the term "guys" perfectly natural and justifiable, as evidenced by many of the other answers. As a non-member of this persuasion, I can tell you when you are the only [whatever] in the room, being addressed this way tends to highlight your difference.

Just imagine the reverse situation - you are the only man in a large group of women, and the greeting is Hello gals! Would that feel weird? I've witnessed it happen to a few men and it's very interesting how quickly they feel out of place or uncomfortable, the more so because it's an unusual experience for them.

Why not try to move the online civility needle just a tiny bit, by saying Hi everybody, instead? We are all people, humans, embodied souls, and using a more inclusive term speaks volumes and the tiny bit of effort will be much appreciated. "Hi guys" is just a habit, one that can easily be changed, and I think should be.

Thank you for asking.

  • Actually I'm not thinking "there could be a better choice". I'm thinking whether it will be alright to say "guys" when it is not clear if all participants are male. Personally, I'm a bit annoyed by the changing culture of more than two genders, and how people now wants to be addressed other than the classical gender. But I respect them. That's what's important. – Vylix Aug 30 '17 at 4:58
  • One way of showing respect to a person is to address them as they wish to be addressed. I personally prefer not to be addressed as one of the "guys". – saswanb Aug 30 '17 at 16:13
  • of course, if you give such statement, I will happily do that for you. However in this context, no such statement has been made. But I really get your point on that :) – Vylix Aug 30 '17 at 16:16
  • Much appreciated, and I can only speak for myself. However, since half the world's population is not male, and you can't ask everyone to tell you their specific preferences, perhaps your "default" mode of address could be a gender-less pronoun. That is what I mean by a better choice - a better default. – saswanb Aug 30 '17 at 17:00
0

TL;DR: Yes, it's fine... if you're a guy!

Your question is a good opportunity to introduce the quite recent idea of speaker-corresponding gender. (This is an approximate literal translation from French "Accord au genre du locuteur" and a better English speaker than I might know a more exact translation.)

The stance I offer you is a quite new and opinionated one, but it brings the benefits of building many bridges between otherwise divided groups.

This whole "rule" of grammar is:

When addressing to or talking about a person (or group) whom gender is unknown to you (or not uniform in the group), use pronouns and nouns which would be suitable to qualify a person (or group) of your own gender.

This has various pros:

  • It allows you to address groups or talk about unknown people without making assumptions.
  • It ensures that on average, people or groups of undetermined gender will be referred to with every gender, in a proportion representative of their occurrence in the population.
  • It is not binary and allows for other genders expressions.
  • It allows you to broadcast your gender in a subtler way than if you were speaking about yourself.

This particular last point is extremely useful when the speaker is often misgendered.

Two things to keep in mind:

  • This last point is fine and dandy if the speaker is ok with their gender being disclosed. This grammar "rule" maybe a poor choice if it's not the case.
  • As you can tell from my previous sentence, I believe it's up to everyone to choose the set of grammar rules they live by, at least regarding these currently-evolving topics, as long as they are explainable and provide society as a whole with some benefits.
  • 2
    How popular is this in France? In English, I've never heard such phrasings, and it would feel awkward to my native English speaking ears to have different people using different genders for the group. – Cort Ammon Aug 29 '17 at 15:18
  • 2
    I spend a lot of time with trans+ folks and I'm pretty sure the majority of the trans+ minority would find this uncomfortable at best. Why not just use gender neutral language? – Rick Aug 29 '17 at 17:32
  • Still quite rare. I feel it's a stance worth exploring thus, although I agree on the initial awkwardness. Unfortunately, in a lot of languages, there is no neutral per se, or it is impossible to use all the time. Some trans or non-binary folks actually like it as it allows them to avoid being misgendered, but keep in mind this is opt-in, and may not be a stance to choose among complete strangers. – Silver Quettier Aug 30 '17 at 5:53
  • Wait.. so if I talk to my group of friends it's okay for me to say "les gars", but if my gf addresses the same group, it's okay for her to say "les filles"? COMPLETELY new concept to me, a native French... so not sure where you are coming from here.... – Patrice Aug 30 '17 at 14:34
  • @Patrice If it's a mixed group, yes in theory, although I've never seen it used with "les gars" or "les filles", more with "ils / elles / iels" or gendered nouns, such as "les acteurs / les actrices". As for the rarity of this stance, I've never seen it used outside LGBT+ communities so far. – Silver Quettier Aug 30 '17 at 15:24
0

I wonder if this is acceptable in an online culture ...

This doesn't directly answer the question about "guys", but if it troubles you as to whether or not it is acceptable you can easily work around it. For example:

gtg cya

...

See you all later (or "I'm off now, see you (all) later")

...

What's everyone doing? (rather than "what are you guys doing?")

2

Guys is probably somewhat okay but better avoided, as it will be felt to be gender-assumptive (hence exclusionary as well) by at least some people, quite reasonably.

Guys and gals definitely is not okay (both binary and highlights gender which isn't actually relevant).

Alternative wordings for the greeting "Hi ______ !" :

Folks. Everyone. Friends. Gang. Team. Fellow
addicts/lunatics/gamers/trainspotters/whatever.

2

It's a difficult phrase to give advice on. I am comfortable saying that the vast majority of individuals have no problem with a mixed group being addressed as "guys." It's a linguistic pattern that's hundreds, if not thousands, of years old which has appeared in many languages. Indeed it's one of the examples used when pointing out that languages evolve to do what they will, not to follow rules. The rules of grammar follow the language, not the other way around. Gender agreement is a rule that was invented to describe languages which had common traits linking which word you use to the genitalia of the individual.

However, in the current cultural environment, there is a minority who are vocally offended by such words. They consider it incredibly offensive that the "masculine" word overrides the "feminine" one (nevermind that masculine and feminine words are "rules" created to describe the language, not rules to define it), and that such behavior is so ubiquitous that we don't even think about it.

So it's really up to you and your group. If you're in an environment where you are willing to offend those who are easily offended, using the very well accepted phrasings such as those using "guys" is going to be reasonable. If you wish to please everybody, you could try using some of the other suggestions such as "folks" or "everyone," but you run the risk of offending an even thinner-skinned group: those who are offended that the first group is offended by language. There are those who see any attempt to adjust the English language to force it into being more "gender neutral" as offensive, and most of the time this means they trigger on absolutely everything except the most standard colloquial wordings.

One solution which does succeed at avoiding offending everyone in many situations is to drop the word entirely. Instead of saying "See you later, guys!" simply say "See you later!" The addition of "guys" is actually redundant, and only serves to emphasize the idea that you are thinking about those specific individuals while you are writing/speaking. There are cases which are more difficult, especially involving pronouns, but in many cases you simply don't need a word at all.

Or you can simply only operate in circles that use Chinese. Chinese is an example of a language that does not have strongly gendered words. Most of their pronouns are already gender neutral, so the majority of these sticky situations go away! I'm sure this is highly impractical, but I wanted to point it out as a modern example of a language that does not need grammatical gender. The rules follow the language, and Chinese simply didn't need that rule!

2

The term "guys" can be considered gender neutral in contexts, such as this one, that support such an interpretation.

So it is fine to you use "guys" to address "people" in this context.

14

"Guys" is often used as gender-neutral.

I decided to look at some data, and came to conclusions opposite that of my original answer. Here's some of what I found (in varying levels of rigor):

  • A survey by Mic:

    1,528 18- to 44-year-olds revealed that while 71.8% of people "often" used "guys" to refer to mixed-gender groups, 88.1% "rarely" or "never" referred to mixed groups by female generics such as "gals," "girls" or "ladies."

    The blog post recommends not using "guys", by the way; it seems that "guys" is still used more often than female generic words.

  • A solely online survey:

    The main thing I find interesting here is how women and men perceive these words differently: about 50% of men (+ other) think that “Java guys” is gender neutral, while only 25% of women do. There’s a similar split for “Python guy” and “Erlang guy”.

    The big outlier here? The case where "guys" is being used to address a group of people (of the same or mixed gender). In this case, both women and men perceive it as being gender-neutral.

  • A senior thesis by Kerry Bodine, supervised by Douglas Hofstadter:

    Overall, Experiment One suggests that "guys" does not evoke more imagery of one gender or the other. Furthermore, the finding from the only story that produced significant results indicates that the expectations to find more masculine imagery associated with "guys" are unfounded.

These are just a few results. The point is that many people of all genders perceive "guys" in this sort of usage as gender-neutral, both in real life and online settings.

25

TLDR; yes yes it is okay to greet people in an online discussion with the term guys, but addressing people would depend on your phrasing (as mentioned below). There aren't only gender differences, there are regional differences too (i.e. some places in the US it may not go down well, regardless of gender). If you want to play it safe i.e. a universal term for online discussion (for more regions/cultures), "folks" is more formal, but a good alternative.


The term "Guys" is generally accepted as a gender-neutral term depending on the phrasing. How you might ask?

If we take a little insight from How Gender Neutral Is Guys, Really?, we'll find term guys to address a mixed-group of poeple has been around for a while.

This use of guys to address a mixed group has been around for decades. It’s a pop-cultural favorite, propelled to catchphrase status by the exuberant “Hey you guys!” in The Goonies, itself a nod to The Electric Company.

But like I said it does depend on how it's used, "Hey Guys" can be seen as neutral because you're addressing a group of people but a term such as "You Guys" may come across as you overlooking the female participants in such an online discussion.

It depends. Addresses like Hey guys or just Guys are widely felt to be gender-neutral; set phrases like good guys are less so; usages like those guys shift even more subtly male-ward; singular a guy and the guy are markedly male. Then we have the likes of a guy thing and guys and dolls, which explicitly contrast guys to the female gender (and belie the fact that many people identify as neither).

But, let's not take a writer's word for it. I wanna hear what the linguists say about this, more specifically a feminist linguist would be a good place to start.

Written in You don't like being called 'guys'? Come on, people!:

Feminist writer and activist Beatrix Campbell is more critical of “guys”. She said: “I’m reminded of the wonderful Getting On TV series when Dr Moore (Vicki Pepperdine) does her ward round and hails the bewildered junior docs (men and women) as ‘gents’. Gorgeously potty. Calling mixed groups ‘guys’ is also potty, but not so gorgeous. There is, lest we forget, as perfect alternative: people.”

But “people” doesn’t solve this linguistic problem. It’s not used in the same way; there’s a colloquial cool solidarity to ‘guys’. ‘Come on, people’ sounds brusque. ‘Come on, guys’ sounds encouraging.

It doesn't seem to bode well, too often. Safe to say there are better alternatives out there (maybe safer).

What's the verdict?

Well, It's perfectly fine to address a group of mixed-gender people (in regards to saying hello) but I wouldn't go much further than that, There are alternatives to the term and should be used with steed.

If I'm addressing the group, I would personally use "Hey Guys" or "Hey all" or "Hey everyone". But, If I'm using the term as you've described in your question. I would say "see ya later, everyone." or "see ya later, folks"

Even the bottom line of the second article has a funny finish and addresses the term folks also.

It’s a minefield, really. Still concerned about the generic masculine insinuation of “guys” and want an equally informal, warm alternative? You’re welcome, folks.

Further reading:

  • 6
    "if you want to play it safe, "folks" is a good alternative." Can you define what "safe" means in this context? If "safe" means "if you don't want to risk offending only people who are not men", then "safe" wrt "guys" is inherently gendered, and your tl;dr conclusion is inconsistent with that statement. – michael Aug 29 '17 at 3:52
  • 1
    @michael It's not as black and white as that. Guys has been around for decades so it may be considered a social norm in some cultures (for both men and women), but not everyone will agree with it in other cultures, doesn't necessarily mean offend, either. So culturally speaking folks is a safe alternative. – Bradley Wilson Aug 29 '17 at 4:02
  • 1
    Again, could you be specific? Which cultures? (Assuming native English language cultures.) Sorry to seem pedantic, but it would help get to the core of the question, especially for non-native speakers. In my opinion, "being safe" means not using "guys" as a gender-neutral substitute for "everyone" or "folks". You came to the opposite conclusion, so that's why I asked for clarification. – michael Aug 29 '17 at 4:07
  • 1
    I may have answered my follow-up question ("Which cultures?") on my own, if you meant to say "regional" -- there are clearly regional differences in use of language across the U.S., as can be seen in comments to this question (linked). Though, I still would conclude "safe" very much implies never using "guys" as gender-neutral. english.stackexchange.com/questions/11816/is-guy-gender-neutral – michael Aug 29 '17 at 4:13
  • 1
    @michael it's not pendantic at all, I didn't account for that when I said "safe alternative", I understand what you mean now. . – Bradley Wilson Aug 29 '17 at 4:16
7

I wonder if this is acceptable in an online culture, especially with the swarm of new gender pronouns that I'm currently oblivious about.

The internet is a big place and there is no one 'online culture', the best idea in order to communicate clearly in an online community is:

  • Lurk around a little and see what kind of language other people use.
  • See what is or isn't appropriate in the chat room.
  • If you error - err on the side of caution.

For example - using "Guys" is entirely in place in the Stack Overflow JavaScript chatroom but that is not not the case everywhere:

0

It is perfectly okay to use guys.

If you feel weird about it, use other words like

Okay everyone listen up

See you all later

If you want to be formal, well okay,

"ladies and gents lets start our discussion"

5

From the perspective of a woman of retirement age, yes it is OK to call a mixed group "guys". (Further cultural ID: Boswash Corridor, US, middle class, associates all highly educated.)

Furthermore, from travelling in the western US, I can attest that if I, as a woman in a mixed group, had objected to being addressed as "you guys" by a waiter I would have starved to death.

In my cultural subgroup, we would not call a group of women gals, folks is just too folksy, but guys is OK. Among the women I play tennis with, we sometimes call ourselves guys and sometimes ladies, but we never call ourselves gals. A woman would refer to her family, but never to her folks.

Conclusion: Use guys, but if a woman in the group objects, apologize and don't do it again with that group. Never use gals. Even within the US, there are wide differences in language that depend on age, geography, and education.

9

I think "okay" will depend on the group. Some people consider "guys" used like that to be gender neutral, others challenge that concept, yet others are offended by an assumption of gender. If you want to err on the side of caution, use a gender-neutral alternative.

For instance, "all" and "folks" fit in well with your example sentence. You could even leave it off entirely, and simply say "See ya later!"

Whatever you choose, I suggest picking one and sticking with it. As you use it more and more, it will become instinct and nobody will think it it sounds odd. I have a couple internet friends who have adopted atypical collective nouns, e.g. "See ya later, kittens!". That might sound funny coming from anyone else, but since they say it so naturally it's just a cute, quirky part of their personality.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.