Inclusive writing: Switzerland prohibits the word “iel” in government documents

Éinclusive writing: Switzerland bans the word «iel» in government texts


It is reasonable to prohibit the use of words like “iel” as well as signs of gender demarcation in government texts, as Switzerland has just decided, believes a recognized linguist. 

On January 13, the Swiss Federal Chancellery published a guide to inclusive writing for government communications intended for the public, in which it prohibits the use of certain “experimental linguistic practices”.

The ban specifically concerns the addition of typographical signs used to mark gender (“students”, “agent-es culturel.les”, “women*”, “chef.ffe.x.s”) and neologisms such as “iel”, “froeur “, “all”, “farmers”.

“These practices are inconsistent with the legal obligation of federal authorities to use adequate, clear and understandable language”, is it explained.


For linguist Monique Cormier, who designed training on inclusive writing based on the recommendations of the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), these recommendations are completely “reasonable”.

“It's not far from what we recommend in Quebec,” she explained in an interview.

Indeed, the OQLF “does not recommend the use” of neologisms, and rather encourages the use of epicene writing, a style that calls, among other things, for neutral formulation. This is also the approach of the Swiss Federal Confederation.

“Several of the new ways of writing that are proposed for the purpose of inclusion have in fact an effect of exclusion”, has noted Ms. Cormier, giving the example of gender-marking graphic signs, which are unreadable by graphic recognition voice readers and which are therefore detrimental to people with visual disabilities.

“What becomes the most difficult is that we can no longer read: readability is very affected, she adds. Especially with the midpoints, what I see is that people are doing what they can. But everyone uses it as they see fit, and not always in the same way.”

Inclusive French

In Switzerland, the publication of this guide has caused a certain stir, in particular because of the means that are proposed for an inclusive use of French. Indeed, it is reminded that the “grammatical gender that includes is the masculine or unmarked gender”, and that this comes under the general principle of the economy of language.

To avoid any confusion, the document establishes as an absolute rule the prohibition to state rules of agreement by using the expression “trumps”, as in the hallowed formula: “the masculine prevails”.

Finally, the guide admits the use of doublets (“Those and those”) when referring to groups that only include “people who recognize themselves in the female/male binary model”.