The University Counsel Office encourages inclusive language in communication at Grand Valley State University. Inclusive language refers to language that creates an environment of respect for diversity. These are guidelines aimed at advancing policy writing and other forms of communication at the University consistent with Chapter 1 of the Administrative Manual, which outlines the University's commitment to inclusiveness and equal opportunity principles approved by the Board of Trustees.
Faculty and staff are encouraged to refer to these guidelines before submitting proposed policies to the Senior Management Team for approval. The entire Grand Valley State University community can use the suggestions demonstrated in all forms of communication.
The Inclusive Language Best Practices are not exhaustive but represent strides towards helping the University utilize language that will convey respect and avoid unintended offensive language. These guidelines will also provide examples of inappropriate and recommended usage of words and gestures as it relates to race and ethnicity, gender, disabilities, age and sexual orientation.
If you have any questions related to the Inclusive Language Best Practices please contact the Grand Valley Manual Administrator in the University Counsel Office at (616) 331-2067 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I. Race and Ethnicity
The rule should apply to individuals, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Inappropriate: Maria Duran, a Hispanic physics professor, has been promoted to an associate professor.
Recommended: Maria Duran, a physics professor, has been promoted to an associate professor.
Example: Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.
Preferred: Women and members of minority groups are encouraged to apply.
Not surprisingly, the Asian-American students did best in the math contest.
Jews make better doctors and lawyers.
Examples: She is African American.
mankind, man-to-man defense, man the operation, manpower, layman's terms, man hours, manmade people, humanity, human beings, one-on-one defense, staff the operation, labor, human resources, staff time, staff support, ordinary terms, staff hours, hours manufactured, synthetic, artificial
You and your spouse are invited. Boyfriends/girlfriends Dear Sir Faculty and wives You and your guest are invited... Friends, guest, partners Dear Sir or Madam Dear colleague Faculty, spouses and guests
Example: Each student should hand his term paper.
Recommended: Each student should hand in a term paper.
Example: A nurse cares for her patient.
Recommended: Nurses care for their patients.
Example: Each student should hand in his term paper.
Recommended: You should hand in your term paper.
Example: As a professor emeritus, s/he is entitled to a reduced parking fee.
Recommended: A professor emeritus is entitled to a reduced parking fee.
Example: Professor Bob Brown and Julie Smith are new faculty.
Recommended: Professors Bob Brown and Julie Smith are new Faculty.
Example: Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman vice president candidate.
Recommended: Geraldine Ferraro was the first female vice president candidate.
Example: Ellen Smith became the woman president of Hometown University on Sept. 1, 1993.
Recommended: Ellen Smith became the president of Hometown University on Sept. 1, 1993.
chairman policemen sales girl spokesmen lady lawyer founding fathers ombudsman chair police officer sales clerk spokesperson lawyer founders ombuds officer
Example: A brilliant female researcher.
Recommended: A brilliant researcher.
Address individual women and men by last names and appropriate titles. Address mixed groups of women and men with gender neutral or gender inclusive terms.
Professor Mr. or Ms. (unless Miss or Mrs.) Dr., Officer or representative / Senator Colleagues Professors Students Committee members Counselors Ladies and gentlemen
She has nice legs
Her hair looks pretty
He is a snappy dresser
The pregnant professor won an award
Example: Arthritis is an impairment in which tissues of the joints are damaged.
Example: Disabilities resulting from arthritis include difficulty in bending the spine or limbs, and thus difficulty in walking or performing tasks.
Example: People with arthritic knees and hips may be handicapped by the absence of elevators in older buildings.
Example: The visually impairment students used a special keyboard.
Preferred: The student with visual impairments uses a special keyboard.
Irrelevant: The new instructor, whose bout with polio left him on crutches, will teach two sections of history.
Relevant: The author of the text on legal rights for people with disabilities writes from experience. She has had paraplegia since childhood.
wheelchair bound confined to a wheelchair homebound employment unfortunate pitiful poor deaf dumb crip deformed Avoid language that portrays people with disabilities as either unfortunate, helpless victims or, at the other extreme, as courageous super-humans use a wheelchair employed in the home courageous, brave, inspirational (use with care) Whenever possible, depict the typical achiever who has a disability, not just the super achieving
DISABILITY ETIQUETTE: General Suggestions
Do not assume you have to explain everything.
Offer to read written material aloud.
If possible, combine visual stimuli with oral presentations.
Allow for a longer response time. Just because they do not answer immediately doesn't mean the correct answer will not come.
Do not skip steps in presenting information. Not everyone can fill the gaps.
When assisting a person who is blind
When you meet a blind person, do not assume your help is needed. You many offer assistance, but it should not be forced
Speak directly to the person
When giving directions, be specific. Use the terms left and right. Street names and building descriptions are of very little value.
If asked to guide people who are blind, offer you arm instead of grabbing theirs.
If an assistive dog is present, remember it is a working dog and should not be treated as a pet.
When seating people who are blind, place their hands on the back of the chair. This will allow the person to judge the size and the location of the chair.
If you are eating with a person who is blind, offer to read the menu (including prices). If help is needed, your offer will be acknowledged or the server will be asked to provide assistance.
If you help the person handle money, identify the bills by denomination separately as they are given. Coins can usually be differentiated by touch.
Irrelevant: The researchers, ages 56 and 60, won a grant from NIH.
Relevant: Patricia Schmidt, 12, will study at UCF this spring. She is the younger student ever to enroll at the university.
Do not assumer older people are less intellectually, physically, or emotionally able than other are groups.
Do no underestimate the capabilities of younger people simply on the basis or their age.
Darleen Hampton, 62, still puts in a full day in Admission Services.
Example: The sweet little old lady enjoyed the pep rally.
Recommended: The older woman enjoyed the pep rally.
V. Sexual Orientation
Sexual orientation and sexuality as terms are preferred to sexual preference.
The term gay is used to refer to both men and women, but some women prefer the term lesbian.
When referring to sexual orientation, as a matter of principle, refer to societal groups in the way members or each group prefer. Ask people what term they prefer.
Do not assume someone's sexual identity based on mannerisms or occupation.
Avoid using the terms gay lifestyle or lesbian lifestyle.
Do not discuss someone else's sexual orientation. Individuals have rights to privacy.
Do not assume that everyone involved or attending a particular activity or events is heterosexual.
If it is necessary to refer to the partner of a gay or lesbian person, ask what term is preferred. Common terms are partner, significant other, lover and spouse.
Gay community is an umbrella term used in the same manner that phrase such as the Italian- American community are used to described groups with similar, but not identical, backgrounds and social agendas. The term may be used to refer to both men and women, but lesbian and gay