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Inclusive Language Guide

At its heart, inclusive language respects, and conveys respect to, people of all backgrounds, experiences, and identities. It avoids assumptions about people described by communications or about readers who are consuming the information. All writing should be free of words, phrases, tone, or implication (intended or otherwise) that exclude, demean, insult, diminish, or otherwise fail to value a person or group because of a particular attribute; that derive from stereotypes; and/or that are no longer acceptable, regardless of whether they were once used commonly.

Be mindful about any individual or group that is being represented in university communications, particularly those who come from an underrepresented population. Recognize that preferred language may vary among individuals within a particular community and that no one person represents all members of a particular community. When possible and reasonable, consult with anyone that is a subject of university communications about how they are represented.

Two rules of thumb are particularly helpful:

  • When considering whether and how to describe someone, first ask yourself, “Is this information necessary for the story or message I am conveying?”
  • When possible, ask people how they prefer to be identified.

It is important to recognize that knowledge and awareness shift, that language is fluid and ever-changing, and that terminology can be contested. This guide is not meant to be comprehensive or rigid; its goal is to create a flexible framework based on the institution’s values to foster communication that is respectful, inclusive, and empowering.