Inclusive Language

Carolina is committed to creating an inclusive and equitable learning environment for every Tar Heel. To fully represent the diversity of our students, faculty, staff and everyone in our community, it is important to use language that supports these values. This inclusive language guide can act as a starting point for communicating in a way that supports a diverse and welcoming community.

Gendered Nouns

Gendered NounGender Neutral Noun
manperson, individual
ladies and gentlemenfriends, colleagues, esteemed guests, students
mankindpeople, human beings, esteemed guests, students
he or shethey, that person, the guest
no pronounthe person's name, they
freshmanfirst-year student
men and womeneveryone, folks, all people, people of all genders
man-mademachine-made, synthetic, artificial
the common manthe average person
chairmanchair, chairperson, coordinator, head
mailmanmail carrier, letter carrier, postal worker
policemanpolice officer
steward, stewardessflight attendant
actor, actressactor
congressmanlegislator, congressional representative
sir (as in "Dear Sir," etc.)Dear First/Last Name, Dear Editor, To Whom it May Concern, etc.

Source: UNC Writing Center's Resource on Gender-Inclusive Language

Titles and Names

"Mr." can refer to any man, regardless of whether he is single or married.
"Miss" and "Mrs." traditionally have defined women by their relationship to men (i.e. married or unmarried)
An alternative when addressing or referring to a woman is "Ms.," which doesn't indicate marital status.
If you don't know the gender identity of the person, use the gender nonspecific "Mx."
disabled person, physically challengeperson with a disability, person who has a disability, person with a mental illness, person with a hearing loss, wheelchair user
the elderlyolder adults
parent (mother and father)parent/guardian/family
homelesspeople experiencing homelessness, people who are homeless
illegal immigrantsindividuals who are undocumented, people who are undocumented, undocumented people, DACA students
low income and poorpeople whose incomes are below the federal poverty threshold, people whose self-reported income was in the lowest income bracket

Source: APA Style Guide (7th ed.), UNC Writing Center's Resource on Gender-Inclusive Language

Racial and Ethnic Identity

Capitalize racial and ethnic groups. Do not use hyphens in multiword names (i.e., African American). Terms such as multiracial, biracial, multiethnic are written in lowercase. Be sensitive to labels – refer to people based on their preference.Black, African American, White, European American, Hispanic, Latinx, Native American, Asian American, Indigenous, list tribal affiliation
When referring to Non-White racial and ethnic groups collectively Use "people of color," "underrepresented groups," "minoritized," "BIPOC," rather than "minorities" 
Racial ethnic comparisons, do not use nonparallel designations (e.g., “African Americans and Whites,” “Asian American and Black Americans” as one group is described by color and the other is not. Do not use phrases such as “White Americans and racial minorities.” “Blacks and Whites,” “African American and European American” 
Avoid essentialism – “the Black race and “the White race.” Portrays human groups as monolithic and as a stereotype.

Terms to racial and ethnic groups continue to change over time. Racial and Ethnic Identity, APA Style Guide (7th Ed.), section 5.7

Gender Identity

Uuse specific nouns to identify people or groups of people, APA Style Guide (7th Ed.) women, men and nonbinary people; transgender men, trans men, transgender women, trans women, cisgender women, cisgender men, gender-fluid people 

Gender, APA Style Guide (7th Ed.)

Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Identity

transgendergender-nonconforming, gender queer, nonbinary, gender-expansive, agender, Two-Spirit 
Don’t use the term "preferred pronoun" – it implies a choice about gender.Instead, use the terms "personal pronouns," "self-identified pronouns," or just "pronouns." 
Don’t use terms that imply binaries, e.g., "opposite sex."Instead, use the terms "another sex" or "another gender."
members in relationshipsmixed gender for partners who have different genders or sexes 

same gender for partners who have the same gender or sex 

Source: Gender, APA Style Guide (7th Ed.)

Sexual Orientation

Do not use the term "sexual preference"Instead, refer to "sexual orientation," or "sexual identity"
Terms for sexual orientationlesbian, gay, heterosexual, straight, asexual, bisexual, polysexual, pansexual
Remember that there is also romantic orientation as well homoromantic, heteroromantic, panromantic, aromantic
Terms for groupsLGBTQ, LGBTQ+, LGBTQIA and LGBTQIA+ may all be used to refer to multiple groups, people marginalized on the basis of sexual, romantic or gender identity or expression

Source: Sexual Orientation, APA Style Guide (7th ed.)

Gender and Pronoun Usage


Additional Resource

The Diversity Style Guide: Helping Media Professionals With Accuracy and Authority

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