Writing about people

DoIT Communications suggesting for writing inclusively about people

It's important to write for and about other people in a way that’s empathetic, compassionate, inclusive, and respectful. Some specific guidelines that DoIT aims to follow:

Age

For ages, use figures, for brevity and readability.

Correct examples of hyphenation:

Don’t reference a person’s age unless it’s relevant to what we're writing. If it is relevant, include the person’s specific age, offset by commas.

Don’t refer to people using age-related descriptors like “young,” “old,” or “elderly.”

Disability

Don’t refer to a person’s disability unless it’s relevant to what we're writing.  If it is relevant, emphasize the person first: ”Jim has a disability” rather than “Jim is disabled.” Avoid euphemisms such as "differently-abled," "physically challenged," or "handi-capable," they are considered condescending. Avoid sensationalizing a disability by saying "afflicted with," "suffers from," "victim of," etc. “Handicapped parking” is OK.

Gender and sexuality

Don’t call groups of people “guys.” Don’t call women “girls.”

Use gender neutral terms in descriptions instead of gender specific ones

It’s OK to use “they” as a singular pronoun.For more about gender neutral language, see Caryn Gootkin's article, Plain language: The tricky aspects of gender-neutral language.

When writing about a person, we use their preferred pronouns. If uncertain, simply use their name.

Rephrase sentences to eliminate gender pronouns, when possible.

We use the following words as modifiers, but never as nouns:

Don’t use these words in reference to LGBT people or communities:

Don’t use “same-sex” marriage, unless the distinction is relevant to what you’re writing. (Avoid “gay marriage.”) Otherwise, it’s just “marriage.”

Hearing

Medical conditions

Don’t refer to a person’s medical condition unless it’s relevant to what we're writing.

Mental and cognitive conditions

Don’t refer to a person’s mental or cognitive condition unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing. Never assume that someone has a medical, mental, or cognitive condition.

Vision