Pronouns Matter


We understand that faculty, staff, students and all members of the UW-Madison campus community want to provide a warm, welcoming, and inclusive environment for one another. One small way we can make UW more inclusive is by using language conscientiously, including pronouns.

Pronouns are words that a person uses to identify themself in place of their name; almost everybody, including cisgender people, uses pronouns. Some examples of pronouns include: she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, per/per/pers, etc. While some of these pronouns may be new to you, many of them have been widely used in English for a long time. Singular they has been in use in standard English since the 1300s!

This page is a starting place for emerging practices around pronouns, digging deeper with more resources, and how pronouns show up in the Canvas learning system.

Pronouns 101 slideshow

Do you like multiple formats? Expanded content for faculty and instructional staff is also hosted in a slideshow PDF for your reference. Please feel free to share with your colleagues or use on your own.

Pronouns slideshow title slide

Emerging practices

Share your pronouns

In academic and professional settings, introducing yourself with your pronouns is an effective way to challenge the norm that pronouns can be assumed, while creating space for others to share their own pronouns if they choose. 

  • Digital representation: you may include pronouns in your online profiles and your video meeting display name. Also try adding pronouns to your email signature and hyperlinking to this page or another informational resource.
  • In-person visual marker: you might include pronouns on your business cards or name tag, wear a button, or write pronouns on a table tent. 
  • In person or over the phone: if you are building a relationship with that person where you need to know pronouns, you can try simply modeling pronoun introductions. For example, “Nice to meet you! My name is Taylor and I use she and her pronouns.”

Have a conversation

Two non-binary students doing work together in class.

When someone discloses their pronouns to you, you can ask clarifying questions on when and where to use them. You can also affirm your own next steps. Some examples:

  • “Thanks for letting me know! Would you like me to correct others if they misgender you?”
  • “I appreciate you telling me. Should I use those in all contexts? Feel free to let me know if that changes.”
  • “I’m so glad to know this about you! I will do my homework and make sure I refer to you correctly.”

Dig Deeper

Tools for practice

GSCC Pronoun Guide

GSCC: Pronoun guide (PDF)
A handout with chart and scenarios. Please feel free to print and share!

Minus18: pronouns practice game
A simple fill-in-the-blank browser game.

Practice with Pronouns game 
A more complex fill-in-the-blank game.

Make space in learning environments

Students may choose to share via table tents, self fill-in seating charts, informational index cards, video meeting display names, or they may email you with details.

Offering a variety of options is best practice! Names and pronouns may change throughout the semester.

For more: Making Welcoming Spaces for TGQ students

Additional languages

Gender looks different in every language! Trans and gender diverse communities across the globe are the best resource on their own languages. A few places to start:

Medium on languages across several continents: Your Guide to Inclusive Language Around the World

Wikipedia on gender neutrality:
– In genderless languages
– In languages with grammatical gender

Professional writing

Academic and professional style guides are catching up with practices of gender-inclusive language.

APA Style: Singular “they”

MLA Style: Using singular “they”

Using Gender-Neutral Pronouns in Academic Writing – The Writing Center – UW–Madison

Community resources

Thank you for working to uplift transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming communities! More resources below:

GSCC: TGQ community page
Trans health, organizations, and resources for allies.

GSCC: Trainings & resources
Comprehensive lists of handouts and workshop opportunities.

Nondiscrimination & bias

UW-Madison protects sex, gender, gender expression, and sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policies (Board of Regents policy 14.6).

If you need support around bias or discrimination, please reach out to the GSCC, the Multicultural Student Center, the Dean of Students Office, or your trusted friends and mentors. We value you. See Crisis Support for more.

In Canvas

There will be a pronouns selection option in Canvas beginning January 11, 2021!

If you opt in to this system, your name will show up as Name (pronouns) wherever your name displays- e.g. Kao Moua (she/her).

No other systems will display the pronouns you select. Additional campus systems will add their own pronouns options in 2021.

For more information:

To choose, change, or remove your pronouns:

  1. Log in to Canvas. 
  2. Click on Account→ Settings.
  3. Scroll and click on Edit Settings.
  4. Choose an option from the drop-down menu. 
  5. Save.

Canvas FAQ

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

What pronouns can I choose from?

You can use any pronouns for yourself that feel good to you! Regarding the limited Canvas system, the current list is as follows, in alphabetical order (Canvas currently does not offer a write-in option):

  • He/him
  • He or they
  • She/her
  • She or they
  • They/them
  • Ze/hir
  • Ze/zir
  • Any pronouns
  • Use my name
  • Ask me privately

Why are some pronouns on the list and not others?

The pronouns listed are the most common binary and nonbinary pronouns in use at UW-Madison. (That we know of!) Other schools with pronoun options in their systems, such as New York University, use very similar lists (including our additional options, such as Ask Me Privately), which helps us feel confident in these options.

Please let us know what additional pronoun sets you would like to see in this list! We are developing additional options. We would also like to offer a write-in option, but this digital system only allows predetermined text.

Going forward, the university expects to revisit the list of available pronouns offered in Canvas based on feedback from users.

Where else will my pronouns display?

The Canvas pronouns function will display anywhere your name displays in Canvas. This includes previous semesters’ online discussion posts, which may still be visible to your previous instructors and classmates. Your pronouns will auto-update in every location whenever you change your pronouns in the system.

Where will my pronouns NOT display?

The pronouns you select to display in Canvas will only display in Canvas. Campus is exploring options for how to enable pronoun information across other primary university systems in the future. This means, as of now, your Directory entry (through which you can change your display first name at, WisCard, library account, and UHS account, for example, will not display your pronouns. Remember that being ‘out’ or disclosing in digital space works a lot like outness in physical space- people may share your pronouns in ways you don’t expect. Please make the right choice for you.

What if people are still not using the right pronouns for me?

If you’ve activated this feature or otherwise shared your pronouns and someone does not use them, there are a few different options for you to consider. 

  • Contact the GSCC for a problem-solving session. 
  • You may also have friends or other advocates who can help intervene or correct in the moment. 
  • The Bias Reporting System is another option – the GSCC, the Multicultural Student Center, and other offices can help you with that, too. 

Bottom line: you deserve to be treated with respect and we will do what we can to help.

Where can I find the campus policy for name and pronoun use?

You can find use guidelines for names and pronouns in use here: Use Guidelines for Name and Pronouns

How will my name, birthdate, and gender appear in UW-Madison academic records?

The Office of the Registrar’s personal info site provides some information about how this information will appear in UW records.

Where can I get technical support for the Canvas pronouns tool?

If you would like technical assistance with Canvas, please contact the DoIT Help Desk.

Additional questions, thoughts, or needs? Contact us at