I commonly use the word ‘guys’ to refer to a group of males colloquially. It’s colloquial but not rude, off putting, condescending, patronizing (though I wouldn’t use it with a group of men at a board meeting (hypothetically of course), unless I knew them). So, some that I would not consider as replacements would be
- buddies: too old-fashioned
- dudes: too informal
- boys: too patronizing
- men, gentlemen: too formal or false respect
I realized that I had also been using it for any group of people, males and females, even just females. It worked for me and I didn’t think of the gender implications, that women might not care for it. No one ever complained, directly or indirectly (rule of life: sometimes people don’t complain about things they should).
But it occurred to me (maybe by reading something that sparked realization) that the intended hearers might not all care for it.
What might be a female gendered or non-gendered version of ‘guys’?
Some that I’ve considered don’t feel right about (though these may be reasonable answers) are:
- dolls: too old-fashioned
- babes: too informal
- ladies: too formal or I’ve heard from women, too creepy
- women: too factual
- girls: too patronizing (as much as ‘boys’)
- everyone, you all: too bland
- y’all: perfectly non-sexist but too regional (might work, but not everywhere)
Hopefully I haven’t eliminated all the possibilities — any suggestions?
“Guys” can be used in English as gender neutral to refer to a group of mixed gender.
You will even hear women refer to other women as “guys.”
The closest linguistic equivalent with a feminine tilt would be “gals.” “Guys and gals” is a rather informal variant of “ladies and gentlemen.” (Note the reverse order.)
Edit: As noted by @kitukwfyer in the question comments, it is possible for “gals” to be derogatory when used by itself so be careful. It’s not likely to be a problem used in the pairing above. Used carefully it’s probably safe, but used by itself it could be heard as mockery.
Saying the following is unlikely to offend anyone:
“The gals talked in the kitchen while the guys went out to see Fred’s new truck.”
But walking up to a couple women on a street corner and saying this might get a strange reaction:
“Excuse me gals, where is the grocery store?”
Saying this to a couple girls might make them doubt you:
“Hey gals come with me.”
But if you are explaining some game instructions and say the following it’s likely to be fine:
“Alright, guys on this side of the room, gals on the other.”