The Clean Code Blog

by Robert C. Martin (Uncle Bob)

Craftsman, Craftswoman, Craftsperson

02 May 2018

In the past I have used the term “Craftswoman” only when refering directly to a woman. In most other cases, including most gender neutral cases, I have used the term “Craftsman”. I say “most” because when I would address a team of both men and women I’d be as likely as not to use some variation of “Craftsmen and Craftswomen”.

When writing, however, I have used “Craftsman” for the gender neutral cases. This is because there is a certain formality to writing; and “Craftsman” seemed to me to be proper English.

I recently had a discussion with a software craftswoman named Liz Keogh. She is a woman whom I consider to be far more adept at the craft we share than I, so I take her words very seriously. She graciously, and patiently, explained to me that the appearance of the word “Craftsman” in written formal text, even when used in the gender neutral case, made her feel “set apart”.

This was a surprise to me. Call me dense if you like (I’ve been called worse) but I did not realize that the usage of the word was having this effect on her. And that effect is not acceptable. I want nothing I say or write to make a woman like Liz Keogh – or any other woman for that matter – feel excluded.

I’m a programmer. I need a formlua – an algorithm – I need to know how to write the if statements in my brain. So here is what I’ve come up with. I apologize if this seems a bit mechanical; but I need personal rules like this.

  • When referring directly to a man, I will use the term “Craftsman”.
  • When referring directly to a woman, I will use the term “Craftswoman”.
  • In the singular gender neutral case I will use “Craftsman or -woman”, or possibly “Craftsperson”. [1]
  • In the plural gender neutral case I will use: “Craftswomen and -men” [2] or possibly “Craftspeople”[4]

Many people have recommended terms like Artisan, Professional, and even Mechanic [5]. But I don’t find that those words carry the right tone and weight. In any case the term “Craftsman” is in such common usage that I feel I must continue using it.

  • [1] I am uncomfortable with the term “Craftsperson” because it sounds clumsy in my head. Perhaps it is the long chain of consonants “cra-FTSP-erson”, or perhaps it’s some more deeply seated phycological reaction. Time will tell whether my discomfort level wanes.

  • [2] Note the refersal of the genders in the singular and plural case. This ought to keep the order balanced, so that it does not appear that I am preferring one gender over another.

    I’m not sure about those hyphens. Craftsman is not a hyphenated word so I’m not sure I can properly use the hyphen this way. I’m using it to connect the last word to the word “Craft”.[3]

  • [3] If you think I’m being overly pedantic here, you haven’t met my copyeditors.

  • [4] I really don’t like the sounds of “Craftspeople”. It sounds flippant somehow, as if it was being said by Maynard G. Krebs: “Hello Craftspeople, you rang?”

  • [5] Mechanic?