This guide is a work in progress and will be periodically updated in response to changes in preferred terminology. Its purpose is to help authors and editors recognize the use of language that is inclusive and culturally sensitive. As a publishing company based both in the US and the UK, we have put together a guide that attempts to address cultural sensitivities in both regions as well as in the wider global context in which our books are distributed. If you have a question about inclusive language that is not addressed in this guide, please consult your editor.

Portions of the guide have been adapted from the Guidelines on Inclusive Language and Images in Scholarly Communication, published by the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC) under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.


General Guidance

Framing: Keep in mind the framing of the narrative (i.e., who is telling the story?). It is common for the default point of view to be centered on so-called Western countries, like the US, UK, and other predominantly white, higher-income countries. One must consider if this is the most appropriate framing for the text, particularly if the context is international or the subject of the text exists outside the “default” group, and ensure that the dominant voice is not silencing those who are not included.

Order and lists: Keep the status quo and “default” groups in mind when ordering information and presenting lists. It is common to present statistics or numbers in order from largest to smallest, or vice versa. However, this can sometimes be problematic as it may result in the dominant power group always being listed first. To avoid this, the information might be ordered randomly or in alphabetical order.

Relevancy and specificity: Ask whether the information is relevant to the topic at hand. Does a person’s immigration status, race, gender identity, and so on matter in this context? If it does, it is best to be as specific as necessary. Avoid generalizations. Don’t say “older Asian people” if you mean “Chinese women over the age of 70.”

Person-first language: In most cases it is preferable to emphasize the person over the attribute. For example, “person with cancer” instead of “cancer patient,” “man in prison” instead of “inmate.” Emphasizing the attribute can reduce the person to a label and dehumanize them.

Ask: Whenever possible, ask the person or group what terms they use. Language is always evolving, and there is not always agreement about the best word to use.

Use of derogatory language: Derogatory terms that feature in a work you are discussing or as context for a point you are making should never be repeated as your own words. If you are thinking of including quotations with derogatory language, first consider carefully what value their inclusion brings to your scholarship. Would your argument work equally well if the terms were omitted or paraphrased? If you feel it is necessary to include the terms, they should be elided and, if appropriate, accompanied by a clearly marked, thoughtful, and sensitive note contextualizing their presence within your argument.

List of preferred terms and terms to avoid by category:

Age

Preferred:
adolescent
ageing/aging
elderly person/people
older person/people
people over/under/between
senior
teenager/teen/preteen
young person/people
youth

Avoid: the aged, the elderly, geriatric, the old, senile (use dementia instead of senility and specify type where known)

Ability/Disability

Preferred:
disability [this may be preceded by an adjective specifying the type]
disabled person
disabled people
impairment
non-disabled
people with disabilities
people without disabilities
person who has/is
person with [chronic illness, learning difficulties, mental health condition, etc.]

Avoid: Aspergers, able-bodied, crippled, handicapped, invalid

Gender and Gender Identity

Note: Use the pronouns that the people you are discussing use to describe themselves. Avoid “deadnaming” [avoid using a transgender person’s former (pretransition) name]

Preferred:
agender, genderless
bigender
binary
cisgender
cross-dresser [if a person self-identifies as such]
deadname
female
femininity
gender-diverse, gender-fluid, gender-nonbinary, gender-nonconforming
humanity, humankind
male
men
masculinity
non-binary
non-cisgender
non-gendered
third gender
transgender
transitioning
women

Avoid: mankind, transvestite.

Sex and Sexual Orientation

Preferred:
assigned sex, sex assigned at birth
bisexual
gay
heterosexual
intersex
lesbian
LGBTQ+
polysexual
questioning
straight
transition

Avoid: homosexual [considered derogatory in the US], non-straight, queer [only use if an individual specifically claims this term], sex change, sexual preference, transsexual [only use if an individual specifically claims this term]

Geopolitics

Preferred:
asylum seeker
foreign national
Global South, Global North
person with _ citizenship
refugee
stateless person
undocumented immigrant

Avoid: alien, illegal alien, first world, second world, third world

Race/Ethnicity

Note: Some races and ethnicities have multiple terms associated with them. When possible, ask for a person’s preference.

Preferred:
Aboriginal Peoples [in Australia]
African American
Antisemitism
Arab
Asian, Asian American, Asian Pacific Islander
biracial, multiracial
Black [uppercase] *
Chicano/a
enslaved person [referring to the Atlantic slave trade]
ethnic minority, linguistic minority, racial minority
First Nations [in Canada]
First Peoples, Original Peoples
Hispanic
Indian [referring to India]
Indigenous, Indigenous Peoples
Latino/a [singular, gendered] or Latinx, Latin@ [nonbinary or plural]
Middle Eastern
minority ethnic group
multi-ethnic
nation [or specify the ethnic group]
Native Americans [in the Americas]
Pacific Islanders
people of colo[u]r
Roma
Traveller
white [lower case] *

Avoid: Caucasian, colo[u]red, gypsy, Indian [referring to Native Americans], mixed race, mulatto, native [if used as a noun, but acceptable as an adjective], Oriental, slave [referring to the Atlantic slave trade], tribe [unless ‘tribe’ is the preferred usage of the group in question]
*Please note that in the South African context, ‘black’ may be used in lowercase.

Socio-economic groups

Preferred:
underserved
under resourced
people experiencing poverty [do not use “underserved” when meaning low socioeconomic status]

Avoid: underprivileged, poverty-stricken, poor people/the poor


Additional Resources

For further information and additional perspectives, see the following resources:

APA – Bias-Free Language
Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Discourse (C4DISC) – Guidelines on Inclusive Language and Images in Scholarly Communication
PFLAG – Glossary [LGBTQ terminology]
Stonewall – List of LGBTQ+ Terms
Sum of Us – A Progressive’s Style Guide
(UK) Disability Unit – Inclusive Language: Words to Use and Avoid When Writing about Disability
(UK) National Union of Journalists – NUJ Guidelines on LGBT+ Reporting
(US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Preferred Terms for Select Population Groups and Communities
(US) National Center on Disability and Journalism – Disability Language Style Guide