I am trying to write a novel. I want to write in a manner that will be respectful toward gender.
I have not yet figured out how to refer to female college-age characters quickly and smoothly without just calling them girls. "Young ladies" sounds respectful but awkward especially when used repeatedly.
For example, the main character might walk down a busy path across the college campus and see many female peers along the way. I need a way to be able to refer to these peers and describe them as they are observed in passing.
Can I just say "A girl with long black hair walked by staring with wide eyes. Behind her, another girl slowly lowered her phone from her ear, and snapped a photo."
or would I need to say "A young woman with long black hair walked by staring with wide eyes. Behind her, another young woman slowly lowered her phone from her ear, and snapped a photo."
Do you see how it will get cumbersome? My novel is intended to be fantasy and humorous at times. I need to keep it informal sounding.