The University of Nevada, Reno is committed to realizing and sustaining an inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible environment for every member of the Wolf Pack community. Not only is this directly referenced in the University’s Mission Statement, it’s also integral to the idea of the Wolf Pack. A pack is about inclusion, about community, about helping one another, about raising up every member because we are better and stronger together than we are apart.

There are few things as pervasive and powerful as language for making someone feel welcomed, valued and included in a community. Of course, the opposite is also true. This guide seeks to help you find the language to honor, respect and support your fellow Wolf Pack members, especially in official University communications.

Language changes, as does what is and is not acceptable. This guide is a living document and will seek to address changes and updates to preferred terminology as often as possible. Staying current through these evolutions is important, to be sure, but more so is remembering that we are all people first. Using language that respects and honors everyone is paramount. When in doubt, ask. Members of communities related to the topics below often have preferred language for themselves and/or their groups.

Below are key guidelines that apply broadly to anything produced by or for the University of Nevada, Reno. Each section thereafter will have additional guidelines specific to that topic that should also be consulted.

General guidelines

  1. In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.
  2. When using an acronym for diversity initiatives, the University of Nevada, Reno’s official acronym is IDEA, which stands for inclusion, diversity, equity and access. Please use IDEA as opposed to DEI or EDI for consistency across campus.
  3. Refrain from using the term native Nevadan as a general term for people born and raised in Nevada as it is not respectful to Indigenous people who truly are native to the land here in Nevada. Instead, use phrases like born and raised or lived in Nevada their whole life.

In most scenarios, going beyond a person’s relationship to the University (e.g., a student, a professor, etc.) in the text won’t be relevant, but it’s important to get things right when details are necessary. This guide contains selections from the Associated Press Stylebook as well as University-specific entries.

The University of Nevada, Reno is committed to realizing and sustaining an inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible environment for every member of the Wolf Pack community. Not only is this directly referenced in the University’s Mission Statement, it’s also integral to the idea of the Wolf Pack. A pack is about inclusion, about community, about helping one another, about raising up every member because we are better and stronger together than we are apart.

There are few things as pervasive and powerful as language for making someone feel welcomed, valued and included in a community. Of course, the opposite is also true. This guide seeks to help you find the language to honor, respect and support your fellow Wolf Pack members, especially in official University communications.

Language changes, as does what is and is not acceptable. This guide is a living document and will seek to address changes and updates to preferred terminology as often as possible. Staying current through these evolutions is important, to be sure, but more so is remembering that we are all people first. Using language that respects and honors everyone is paramount. When in doubt, ask. Members of communities related to the topics below often have preferred language for themselves and/or their groups.

Below are key guidelines that apply broadly to anything produced by or for the University of Nevada, Reno. Each section thereafter will have additional guidelines specific to that topic that should also be consulted.

General guidelines

  1. In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.
  2. When using an acronym for diversity initiatives, the University of Nevada, Reno’s official acronym is IDEA, which stands for inclusion, diversity, equity and access. Please use IDEA as opposed to DEI or EDI for consistency across campus.
  3. Refrain from using the term native Nevadan as a general term for people born and raised in Nevada as it is not respectful to Indigenous people who truly are native to the land here in Nevada. Instead, use phrases like born and raised or lived in Nevada their whole life.

In most scenarios, going beyond a person’s relationship to the University (e.g., a student, a professor, etc.) in the text won’t be relevant, but it’s important to get things right when details are necessary. This guide contains selections from the Associated Press Stylebook as well as University-specific entries.

 

Imagery

IMAGE GUIDELINES

Imagery should be selected that:

  • Is true to our campus: We select images that show real University of Nevada, Reno faculty, staff and students in realistic campus settings. We avoid stock photography (especially stock photography that shows individuals or groups of people). Imagery should represent the correct proportion of the diversity that exists on our campus without depicting campus in an unrealistic or manufactured way.
  • Respects the rights of photography subjects: Individuals who appear in our photos and videos should have control over how they are portrayed and what campus programs, events and stories they represent.

Images of human remains are prohibited, including bones and fossilized remains. Contact communications@unr.edu with any questions.

SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS

Photography process

Whenever possible, collect the following information from subjects photographed and store this information with the photography:

  • Name, major, expected graduation year, pronouns and racial groups they identify with.
  • Email address: Photography subjects can expect to be informed if their image will be used in new or different ways from the original purpose, especially if the image may be used prominently in a public forum.

Move images that are older than four years to an archive or use a system that will make it easy to identify the age of images. In general, imagery older than this should not be used outside of niche or historical applications.

Identify photo library owners representing various constituencies in MarCom to share the work of storing and managing photo assets, until such time as a digital asset manager can be purchased.

Image selection

  • Photos with multiple individuals in them are often preferred unless the story is about a single individual. Images with multiple individuals avoid having one person serve as the “face” of a topic or program.
  • Active photos are preferred unless the content is a profile of the subject. An active photo is one in which the subjects are performing an activity rather than smiling straight into camera. This shifts the focus of the photo to the activities highlighted by the story or program and allows photography subjects to represent activities rather than identities. Exceptions to this “active” guidance include portraits/profiles, Faces of the Pack, etc., where the content revolves around an individual.
  • Consider ways to show diversity in imagery other than through people. Consider signage and symbols such as the rainbow flag, a cross or rosary, braille signage, gender neutral restroom signs or similar icons to portray diversity that may not otherwise be visible.
  • Consider context for photography. Images used on stories about financial aid, for example, should be representative and inclusive of all students to show that all students may have financial need.
  • Be mindful of overuse of photos. Including the same faces repeatedly can be a sign our photo library needs updating. Overused images may need to be archived sooner than the four-year window.

Alternative-text

  • Inclusive alt-text does not assume gender or racial/ethnic affiliation is knowable based on physical presentation alone. Individuals should be identified with generic descriptors (students, researchers, individuals) unless their identities are described elsewhere in the page content.

Further resources

 

Academia

WRITING GUIDELINES

The recommendations in this guide are exclusive to inclusivity, diversity, equity and access. For a more comprehensive guide on non-academic writing for the University of Nevada, Reno, please refer to the general University Style Guide.

Broadly, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.

Avoid using generalized references to a generation when referring to the student body (i.e., Gen Z). See ageism.

Avoid using gendered academic terms unless necessary to the story and you know the person’s preferred gender identification (alumna/alumnae, emeritus/emerita, chairman/chairwoman). See gender and sexuality.

When writing about University organizations, programs, scholarships, etc. designed to provide assistance or resources to specific groups or individuals, please consult the appropriate section of this guide for guidelines and terminology.

DEFINITIONS

Alumna, alumnus, alumnae, alumni
Typically used for graduates. At the University of Nevada, Reno, six credits qualifies an individual to be classified as an alumnus.

  • Alumna refers to a woman.
  • Alumnae refers to a group of women.
  • Alumnus refers to a man or a person of non-specified gender.
  • Alumni refers to a group of men or a mixed group.
  • Do not use alum/alums.

Emeritus, emerita, emeriti
Emeritus is an honorary rank bestowed on retired University faculty. Emeritus and emeriti are the preferred singular and plural terms of professors of any gender. The feminine term emerita may be used given the preference of the subject.

  • Emeritus refers to a man or person/group of non-specified gender.
  • Emerita refers to a woman.
  • Emeritae refers to a group of only women.
  • Emeriti refers to a mixed group or a group of men.

TERMINOLOGY

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • first-generation
  • first-year student
  • freshman, freshmen*
  • student

*Although this is a gendered term, freshman/freshmen is commonly used and understood in relation to education, and also influences the related terms sophomore, junior and senior. It is also still listed as an acceptable term in the AP Style Guide.

AVOID USING

  • kid, child, girl, boy (in reference to students, even in a parent/child context)
  • nontraditional student
  • chairman/chairwoman (use chair unless specified by the individual)
  • councilman/councilwoman (use council member)
  • Mr., Ms., Mrs. etc.
 

Age and ageism

WRITING GUIDELINES

In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.

In the case of age, people tend to view the aging process negatively, and language reflects this age-related bias. Change begins with recognizing the tendency to overlook older employees and job applicants for promotions and vacancies, as well as considering how doing so negatively impacts your workplace culture.

Specific Recommendations

  • There are very few cases in which a subject’s age is relevant. Should the need arise, list the specific age rather than assigning a category (e.g., young, elderly, middle-aged) or generation (e.g., Millennial, Baby Boomer) that might be vague or create negative connotations. When broader terms are necessary, ask the source for their preferred terminology.
  • Avoid using age-related terminology to describe a situation metaphorically, especially if the phrasing is meant as an insult or is used flippantly.
  • Do not use language that patronizes, sentimentalizes, distorts or ignores people based on age.
  • Do not assume someone who is older is living with a disability.
  • Avoid using age-related figures of speech to describe someone, such as young at heart or old soul. Instead, be direct about what you mean to convey (e.g., young at heart could mean energetic and adventurous – use those).

DEFINITIONS

age
Use when deemed relevant to the situation. If someone is quoted as saying, “I’m too old to get another job,” the age is relevant. Generally, use ages for profiles, obituaries, significant career milestones and achievements unusual for the age. Use ages for people commenting or providing information only if their age is relevant to their comments (e.g., a teenager’s comment on video games aimed at that age group). Appropriate background, such as a parent of two young children or a World War II veteran, may suffice instead of the actual age.

Always use figures. The girl is 15 years old; the law is 8 years old; the 101-year-old house. When the context does not require years or years old, the figure is presumed to be years.

Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun. Examples: A 5-year-old boy, but the boy is 5 years old. The boy, 7, has a sister, 10. The woman, 26, has a daughter 2 months old. The race is for 3-year-olds. The woman is in her 30s (no apostrophe).

ageism
Discrimination against people on the basis of age, most often against older people, including prejudicial stereotyping thereof.

older adult(s), older person/people
Preferred over senior citizens, seniors or elderly as a general term when appropriate and relevant.

It is best used in general phrases that do not refer to specific individuals: concern for older people; a home for older adults. Aim for specificity when possible: new housing for people 65 and over; an exercise program for women over 70.

Definitions and understandings vary about the age range denoted by the term older adult, as well as by the terms senior citizen, senior and elderly. When an official or organization uses one of these terms, ask for specifics.

Provide context and specifics to make the meaning clear. For example, a story might begin by referring to cuts in programs for older adults, but explain soon thereafter that the programs are for people 62 and older. Another example: The researchers found that weekly exercise decreased the risk of diabetes among people in their 70s and 80s.

The term elderly is acceptable in headlines when relevant and necessary because of space constraints. Aim for specificity when space allows: Couple in their 90s rather than elderly couple.

Terms like senior citizen and elderly are acceptable in reference to an individual if that person prefers them.

Do not use the elderly in reference to a group.

nontraditional student
Avoid using this term. Fewer and fewer students fit into the “traditional” model of higher education, which makes the term meaningless at best and derogatory at worst.

senior, senior citizen
When referring to individuals over the age of 50, older adults is preferable.

student
Preferred term for University students. Avoid patronizing language like kid or child (even when talking to parents about their students).

TERMINOLOGY

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • specific age
  • elder or older person/adult
  • a person’s preferred terminology

AVOID USING

  • the aged
  • the elderly
  • senile
  • senior
  • geriatric (unless in “geriatric medicine” or similar instances)
  • kid, girl, boy, child (when referring to University students)
  • nontraditional student
 

Criminal justice

WRITING GUIDELINES

In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.

When referencing a trial or hearing, exercise care in who is being named and the context of how the name is being used. Typically, only the name of the person on trial should be used to protect victims and to not confuse who is being charged with a crime. Some exceptions may occur when referencing a trial that has gained national attention and popularity in mainstream media (e.g., Trial of George Floyd Murder).

When writing about crime and policing, be mindful to avoid stereotypes that depict groups of people or communities as prone to crime or primarily defined by their relationship to the criminal justice system. As in other areas of this guide, person-first language (i.e., people in prison instead of inmates) is preferred.

Avoid shorthand terms like “war on drugs” or “law and order” that have accrued long histories and political associations in favor of more contextualized and specific phrasing. Avoid deficit-based language that focuses on gaps in outcomes; when possible, explain how disparities came to be.

References to criminal justice and related topics are most likely to happen when writing about research on campus.

DEFINITIONS

accused, alleged, suspected
A person is accused of, not with, a crime. To avoid any suggestion that an individual is being judged before a trial, do not use a phrase such as accused slayer John Jones or the accused slayer; alleged killer Ralph Hornsby or the alleged killer; suspected shooter Carmine Jablonski or the suspected shooter. Instead: John Jones, accused of the slaying or Ralph Hornsby, charged with killing the man.

allege
The word must be used with great care. Some guidelines:

  • Avoid any suggestion that the writer is making an allegation.
  • Specify the source of an allegation. In a criminal case, it should be an arrest record, an indictment or the statement of a public official connected with the case.
  • Use alleged bribe or similar phrase when necessary to make it clear that an unproved action is not being treated as fact. Be sure that the source of the charge is specified elsewhere in the story.
  • Avoid, where possible, alleged victim. It is too easily construed as skepticism of a victim's account.
  • Avoid redundant uses of alleged. It is proper to say: The district attorney alleged that she took a bribe. Or: The district attorney accused her of taking a bribe. But not: The district attorney accused her of allegedly taking a bribe.
  • Do not use alleged to describe an event that is known to have occurred, when the dispute is over who participated in it. Do not say: He attended the alleged meeting, when what you mean is: He allegedly attended the meeting.
  • Do not use alleged as a routine qualifier. Instead, use a word such as apparent, ostensible or reputed.

arrest
To avoid any suggestion that someone is being judged before a trial, do not use a phrase such as arrested for killing. Instead, use arrested on a charge of killing. If a charge hasn’t been filed, arrested on suspicion of, or a similar phrase, should be used.

cop
Be careful in the use of this colloquial term for police officer. It may be used in lighter stories and in casual, informal descriptions, but often is a derogatory term out of place in serious police stories.

indict
Use indict only in connection with the legal process of bringing charges against an individual or corporation. To avoid any suggestion that someone is being judged before a trial, do not use phrases such as indicted for killing or indicted for bribery. Instead, use indicted on a charge of killing or indicted on a bribery charge.

felony, misdemeanor
A felony is a serious crime. A misdemeanor is a minor offense against the law. A fuller definition of what constitutes a felony or misdemeanor depends on the governmental jurisdiction involved. A felon is a person who has been convicted of a felony, regardless of whether the individual actually spends time in confinement or is given probation or a fine instead. Convicted felon is redundant.

prison, jail
Do not use the two words interchangeably.

  • Prison is a generic term that may be applied to the maximum security institutions often known as penitentiaries and to the medium security facilities often called correctional institutions or reformatories. All such facilities usually confine people serving sentences for felonies.
  • A jail is normally used to confine people serving sentences for misdemeanors, people awaiting trial or sentencing on either felony or misdemeanor charges, and people confined for civil matters such as failure to pay alimony and other types of contempt of court.

Guidelines for capitalization:

  • Prisons: Many states have given elaborate formal names to their prisons. They should be capitalized when used, but commonly accepted substitutes should also be capitalized as if they were proper names. For example, use either Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Walpole or Walpole State Prison for the maximum security institution in Massachusetts. Do not, however, construct a substitute when the formal name is commonly accepted: It is the Colorado State Penitentiary, for example, not Colorado State Prison.

On second reference, any of the following may be used, all in lowercase: the state prison, the prison, the state penitentiary, the penitentiary.

Use lowercase for all plural constructions: the Colorado and Kansas state penitentiaries.

  • Jails: Capitalize jail when linked with the name of the jurisdiction: Los Angeles County Jail. Lowercase county jail, city jail and jail when they stand alone.
  • Federal Institutions: Maximum security institutions are known as penitentiaries: the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg or Lewisburg Penitentiary on first reference; the federal penitentiary or the penitentiary on second reference. Medium security institutions include the word federal as part of their formal names: the Federal Correctional Institution at Danbury, Connecticut. On second reference: the correctional institution, the federal prison, the prison. Most federal facilities used to house people awaiting trial or serving sentences of a year or less have the proper name Federal Detention Center. The term Metropolitan Correctional Center is being adopted for some new installations. On second reference: the detention center, the correctional center.

riot
Rioting is a crime, which can result in charges, so use of the term in a news story should be with proper sourcing – law enforcement, prosecutors or other officials.

sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct
Proceed with care when using these terms, along with others such as rape, molestation, unwanted sex, sexual relationship, etc. Authorities, people making accusations and people who stand accused use a variety of language and terminology to cover a wide spectrum of actions or behavior. Interpretations can vary widely. Do not simply repeat those terms.

Instead, pay close attention to legal definitions, which vary by jurisdiction, and the wording of criminal charges or convictions. Consider the nuance of each situation and what may be conveyed or perceived by the language used.

As with all accusations, allegations should be well documented and corroborated. Always seek comment from accused individuals or their representatives.

We generally do not identify, in text or images, those who say they have been sexually assaulted or subjected to extreme abuse. We may identify victims of sexual assault or extreme abuse when victims publicly identify themselves. Decisions on identifying people who say they have been subject to other forms of sexual misconduct should be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the allegations.

Among points to consider:

  • Terms such as rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment have legal definitions that vary by jurisdiction. Knowing the definitions is essential when deciding which term(s) are accurate and appropriate. Depending on state law, rape and sexual assault can include sexual contact by force, threat or coercion, or after the accuser’s incapacitation due to drugs or alcohol.
  • When reporting on court cases, use the language contained in the charges and/or conviction. If a defendant is charged with sexual assault, do not say they are charged with rape. If a defendant is convicted on a charge of sexual misconduct, do not say they were convicted of having unwanted sex with the victim or convicted of rape. If someone is charged with sexual harassment, do not say they are accused of sexual assault.
  • It may be appropriate to explain why a story does or does not use certain terms: The woman said she was raped; prosecutors charged the man with sexual assault under the definitions in state law. Another example: He was convicted of taking indecent liberties, which is the formal criminal charge.
  • The term sexual relationship implies consent. Under state laws, a minor cannot give sexual consent to an adult. Thus, do not write that an adult had a sexual relationship with or had sex with a minor or vice versa. (The age of consent varies by jurisdiction; know the law of the state or jurisdiction in question.) In other cases, consider carefully whether relationship is an appropriate term.
  • A key issue in many cases is the element of consent, and definitions of what constitutes consent vary. Refer to the laws of the jurisdiction in question.
  • The terms sexual harassment and sexual misconduct generally denote behavior that does not include rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse or sexual violence. Sexual misconduct is preferred over sexual harassment, as it encompasses a broader range of misbehavior and does not run the risk of diminishing an alleged act. Use sexual harassment when reporting on a specific legal charge or formal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.
  • The term sexual violence may occasionally be used in broad references to sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse. Use the more specific wording for individual cases.
  • After using a broad term such as sexual misconduct or sexual assault, describe generally the kinds of behavior alleged or admitted — such as groping, unwanted kissing, disrobing, verbal abuse, digital penetration, oral sex, etc. Provide enough detail to make clear the alleged crimes, while avoiding a level of detail that could be perceived as gratuitous.
  • Do not refer to a person making an accusation as a victim unless the accused person has been convicted. Avoid the term alleged victim. The term accuser is acceptable, especially when referring to a group of people: Bill Cosby’s accusers. Limit its use when referring to an individual in favor of the correct pronoun. The woman said the defendant forcibly kissed her.

survivor, victim
Use these terms with care because they can be imprecise and politically and legally fraught.

Survivor can denote someone who has lived through an injury or disease, but also can apply to someone who endured a threat but escaped injury altogether. Example: a mass shooting survivor. Likewise, victim can create confusion because it can variously mean someone killed, injured or subjected to mistreatment such as sexual misconduct.

Be specific if there is room for confusion: The ceremony honored people wounded in the mass shooting, not The ceremony honored victims and/or survivors of the mass shooting. The play told the story of those killed in the hurricane not The play told the stories of the hurricane’s victims.

Also be alert to potential biases and assumptions inherent in the word victim. A phrase such as AIDS victim, for instance, not only makes it unclear whether the subject is alive or dead, but many AIDS patients do not consider themselves victims. Instead, use neutral, precise descriptions: He has AIDS. She has hepatitis. In crime stories, avoid alleged victim if possible; it is too easily construed as skepticism. In stories in which sexual misconduct or other allegations are leveled, consider calling the person making the allegations an accuser instead of a victim, if shorthand is needed, to avoid implications of guilt on the part of the accused.

Survivor is often used to describe people who have lived through physical or emotional trauma, as in abuse or rape survivor. It is best to be specific when referring to individuals, especially if the person was never in danger of death. Use of survivor gets more latitude when describing groups. A group of Holocaust survivors met at the memorial.

suspect
The word refers to a person who police, prosecutors or other authorities believe or say committed a crime. Do not use it to mean a person of unknown identity who definitely committed a crime. In other words, don’t substitute suspect for robber, killer, rapist, etc., in describing an event, even if authorities phrase it that way. Correct: Police said the robber stole 14 diamond rings; the thief ran away. Incorrect: Police said the suspect stole 14 diamond rings; the suspect ran away. Conversely, don’t substitute robber, killer, rapist, etc., when suspect is indeed the correct word. Correct: Police arrested the suspect the next day. Incorrect: Police arrested the robber the next day.

TERMINOLOGY

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • underserved, neglected
  • due process, community safety
  • (formerly) incarcerated person
  • person affected by drug use, person with an addiction

AVOID USING

  • poor, at risk
  • law and order
  • offender
  • addict
 

Disability

WRITING GUIDELINES

When writing about disability, one of the most important things to remember is that disability is not a bad or forbidden word. It is OK to say it and there is no need to avoid the word by using ability or diversability, etc. Handicap should never be used in lieu of disability.

In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language, when appropriate, but remember that many people prefer identity-first language (e.g. as a disabled person rather than a person with a disability). Always check with interview subjects for preferred pronouns, disability identifiers and appropriate terms. In describing groups of people, using person-first language is typically preferred.

Avoid verbs that connote pity, such as afflicted with or suffers from multiple sclerosis; rather, consider saying has multiple sclerosis. Also avoid clichés such as inspiring and brave; especially when describing an everyday activity that for other people would not be inspiring or brave. People do not overcome a disability; disability should be seen and written about as another aspect of diversity.

Avoid colloquial language that has roots in disability, especially when rooted in negative connotations. Common examples include describing people or things as crazy (derogatory towards people with mental health conditions), dumb (intellectual disabilities), and retarded. Also avoid using normal and instead consider using typical. Normal implies that people with disabilities are not normal/abnormal.

DEFINITIONS

blind
Describes a person with complete or nearly complete loss of sight. For others, use terms such as visually impaired or person with low vision.

deaf
Describes a person with total or major hearing loss. For others, use partial hearing loss or partially deaf. Avoid using deaf-mute. Do not use deaf and dumb. Some object to the term hearing-impaired; try to determine an individual’s preference.

disabled
Avoid using unless it is the preferred term of the person being referenced. Use person-first language when unsure or referring to a group (e.g., people with disabilities). Be as specific as possible about the disability in question (e.g., person with schizophrenia not schizophrenic person and not simply disabled person). When referring to places or things, reframe as accessible (e.g., accessible parking not disabled parking).

mute 
Describes a person who cannot speak. Others with speaking difficulties are speech-impaired.

wheelchair user 
People use wheelchairs for independent mobility. Do not use confined to a wheelchair or wheelchair-bound. If a wheelchair is needed, and relevant, say why.

TERMINOLOGY

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • person with [specific disability]
  • people with disabilities
  • a person’s preferred terminology

AVOID USING

  • the disabled
  • mentally retarded
  • cripple or crippled
  • handicap or handicapped
  • differently abled
 

Gender and sexuality

WRITING GUIDELINES

In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.

As in all areas, respect is paramount in topics related to gender and sexuality. Use the language describing gender or sexuality that is preferred by the person being referenced and only when appropriate and necessary. One way this recommendation is put into practice is by asking subjects for their pronoun preferences, rather than assuming them, but there are many other ways sensitivity to subject preferences may present itself in any given context. Be mindful of opportunities to explore individual preferences, as doing so provides a possibility to tell the specific, unique story of the subject.

In general, substitute gender-neutral language when possible and appropriate (ex., chair or chairperson instead of chairman). There may be cases when a suitable gender-neutral alternative is unavailable (e.g., snowman does not, to date, have a non-gendered, commonly used alternative); if possible, consider another construction.

OVERVIEW

Gender is not synonymous with sex. Gender refers to a person’s social identity, while sex refers to biological characteristics. Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people. When needed for clarity or in certain stories about scientific studies, alternatives include men and women, boys and girls, males and females.

Language around gender is evolving. Newsrooms and organizations outside AP may need to make decisions, based on necessity and audience, on terms that differ from or are not covered by the AP’s specific recommendations. For instance, the AP recommends the terms sex reassignment or gender confirmation for the medical procedures used for gender transition, while some groups use other terms, such as gender affirmation or sex realignment.

DEFINITIONS

asexual
Describes people who don’t experience sexual attraction, though they may feel other types of attraction, such as romantic or aesthetic. Not synonymous with and does not assume celibacy.

bisexual
Describes people attracted to more than one gender. Some people prefer pansexual, which describes people attracted to others regardless of their gender. The shortened version bi is acceptable in quotations.

cisgender
Describes people whose gender identity matches the one they were assigned at birth; that is, not transgender. Explain if necessary. Do not use terms like normal to describe people who are not transgender. Not synonymous with heterosexual, which refers to sexual orientation.

conversion therapy
The scientifically discredited practice of using therapy to “convert” LGBTQ people to heterosexuality or traditional gender expectations. Either refer to it as so-called conversion therapy or put quotation marks around it. Do not do both. Gay conversion therapy should take no hyphen. Always include the disclaimer that it is discredited.

cross-dresser
Avoid using the term cross-dresser. Instead, use people who cross-dress or people who dress in non-gender conforming clothing, as cross-dresser has historically been a derogatory term. Use these person-first terms instead of the outdated transvestite for someone who wears clothing associated with a different gender, and only when the subject identifies as such. Not synonymous with drag performer or transgender.

deadname
Use the name by which a transgender person now lives. Refer to a previous name, sometimes called a deadname (noun), only if relevant to the story. See name changes.

drag performer, drag queen, drag king
Entertainers who dress and act as a different gender. Drag queens act as women; drag kings act as men. Male impersonator or female impersonator is also acceptable. Not synonymous with cross-dresser or transgender.

gay, lesbian
Used to describe people attracted to the same sex, though lesbian is the more common term for women. Preferred over homosexual. Include sexual orientation only when it is pertinent to a story, and avoid references to sexual preference or to a gay or alternative lifestyle. Gays is acceptable as a plural noun when necessary, but do not use the singular gay as a noun. Lesbian is acceptable as a noun in singular or plural form. Sexual orientation is not synonymous with gender.

gender-nonconforming
Acceptable in broad references as a term for people who do not conform to gender expectations. The group is providing scholarships for gender-nonconforming students. When talking about individuals, be specific about how a person describes or expresses gender identity and behavior. Roberta identifies as both male and female. Not synonymous with transgender.

Use other terms like bigender (a term for people who identify as a combination of two genders) or agender (people who identify as having no gender) only if used by subjects to describe themselves and only with explanation.

genderfluid
Used to describe individuals who have different gender identities at different times.

heterosexual
In males, a sexual orientation that describes attraction to females, and vice versa. Straight is acceptable. Transgender people can be heterosexual.

homophobia, homophobic
Acceptable in broad references or in quotations to the concept of fear or hatred of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The governor denounced homophobia. In individual cases, be specific about observable actions; avoid descriptions or language that assumes motives. The leaflets contained an anti-gay slur. The voters opposed same-sex marriage.

Related terms include biphobia (fear or hatred specifically of bisexuals) and transphobia (fear or hatred of transgender people).

homosexual, homosexuality
Refers to the sexual orientations of gay and/or lesbian. Gay and lesbian is preferred as an adjective; homosexuality is acceptable when an umbrella term is needed. Avoid homosexual as a noun.

intersectionality
Describes overlapping social categorizations, including but not limited to ethnicity, race, gender, and age. Generally used to identify ways in which different systems of discrimination, disadvantage or oppression affect individuals both separately and together.  

intersex
Describes people born with genitalia, chromosomes or reproductive organs that don’t fit typical definitions for males or females. Gonzalez is an intersex person who identifies as female. Zimmerman is intersex. Do not use the outdated term hermaphrodite.

LGBT, LGBTQIA+
LGBTQIA+ is preferred at the University. Acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and/or queer. I generally stands for intersex, and A can stand for asexual (a person who doesn't experience sexual attraction), ally (some activists decry this use of the abbreviation) or both*. Best used as an adjective and an umbrella term. Don't use it when the group you're referring to is limited to, for instance, only bisexuals.

*Please note that while the AP Style lists “ally” as an acceptable meaning for “A” in LGBTQIA+, the University recommends retaining the meaning “asexual” for “A.”

nonbinary
People are nonbinary if their gender identity is not strictly male or female. Not synonymous with transgender. Explain in a story if the context doesn't make it clear.

out, outing
Refers to public knowledge of a person’s homosexuality, bisexuality or gender transition. Brianna McSmith came out as lesbian; Gus Rubenstein came out of the closet; Sam Robinson came out as transgender. Outing or outed is usually used when a person’s status is revealed against one’s knowledge or will.

Do not use terms like avowed or admitted. Use the term openly only if needed to draw a distinction. Don’t assume that because news figures address their sexuality publicly, it qualifies as coming out; public figures may consider themselves out even if they haven’t previously addressed their orientation publicly.

pronouns
Do not presume maleness in constructing a sentence by defaulting to he/his/him. Usually it is possible, and always preferable, to reword the sentence to avoid gender: Reporters try to protect their sources.

In most cases, a plural pronoun such as they, them or their should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers.

We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze, per AP guidelines. Exceptions may be made for personal pronouns.

Arguments for using they/them as a singular sometimes arise with unspecified/unknown gender (the victim, the winner). In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person.

Examples of rewording: Hendricks said the new job is a thrill (instead of Hendricks said Hendricks is thrilled about the new job or Hendricks said they are thrilled about the new job). Lowry’s partner is Dana Adams, an antiques dealer. They bought a house last year (instead of Lowry and Lowry’s partner bought a house last year or Lowry and their partner bought a house last year).

When they is used in the singular, it takes a plural verb: Taylor said they need a new car. (Again, be sure it’s clear from the context that only one person is involved.)

The singular reflexive themself is acceptable only if needed in constructions involving people who identify as neither male nor female. Again, it’s usually possible and always best to rephrase. Dana Adams was not available for comment (instead of Dana Adams did not make themself available for comment). See his, her; they, them, their.

queer
Queer is an umbrella term covering people who are not heterosexual or cisgender and is acceptable for people and organizations that use the term to identify themselves. Do not use it when intended as a slur. Follow guidelines for obscenities, profanities, vulgarities as appropriate.

same-sex marriage
The preferred term rather than gay marriage, because the laws generally don’t address sexual orientation. In places where it’s legal, same-sex marriage is no different from other marriages, so the term should be used only when germane and needed to distinguish from marriages between male-female heterosexual couples. Gertrude Boxer and Savannah Boxer dated for several years before their marriage in 2014. Sex is not synonymous with gender.

sex reassignment or gender confirmation
The treatments, surgeries and other medical procedures used by transgender people to match their sex to their gender. The preferred term over gender reassignment; do not use the outdated term sex change. Sex reassignment or gender confirmation surgery is not necessary for people to transition their gender.

transgender
Describes people whose gender identity does not match the sex they were identified as having at birth. Does not require what are often known as sex reassignment or gender confirmation procedures. Identify people as transgender only if pertinent, and use the name by which they live publicly. Generally, avoid references to a transgender person being born a boy or girl, since it’s an unnecessary detail and excludes intersex babies. Bernard is a transgender man. Christina is transgender. The shorthand trans is acceptable on second reference and in headlines: Grammys add first man and first trans woman as trophy handlers.

Do not use as a noun, such as referring to someone as a transgender, or use the term transgendered. Not synonymous with terms like cross-dresser or drag queen, which do not have to do with gender identity. See cross-dresser, drag performer. Do not use the outdated term transsexual. Avoid derogatory terms such as tranny. Follow guidelines for obscenities, profanities, vulgarities as appropriate.

Use the name by which a transgender person now lives. Refer to a previous name, sometimes called a deadname, only if relevant to the story. See name changes.

transition, gender transition
The processes transgender people go through to match their gender identity, which may include sex reassignment or gender confirmation procedures, but not necessarily.

Washington is transitioning while helping his daughter consider universities. Chamberlain’s family offered support during her transition.

woman, women
Use female as an adjective, not woman. She is the first female governor of North Carolina.

Treatment of the sexes should be evenhanded and free of assumptions and stereotypes. This does not mean that valid and acceptable words such as mankind or humanity cannot be used. They are proper.

GENDER-NEUTRAL LANGUAGE

In general, use terms that can apply to any gender. Such language aims to treat people equally and is inclusive of people whose gender identity is not strictly male or female.

Balance these aims with common sense, respect for the language and an understanding that gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is evolving and in some cases is challenging to achieve.

Consider any word or term that has the effect of emphasizing one gender over another. Is there another word that could be substituted? For example: search instead of manhunt. Police officer instead of policeman. Door attendant instead of doorman.

A true gender-neutral noun often presents itself easily: chair or chairperson, firefighter, workforce. In other cases, a noun may technically not be gender-neutral but instead be a masculine noun that assumes the generic case under English language convention: actor, host.

In general, use terms such as chair or chairperson, councilperson or council member, and spokesperson unless the -man or -woman terms are specified by an organization. Councilmember is acceptable in jurisdictions that have adopted the one-word version.

Mother/father, son/daughter, sister/brother, husband/wife, girlfriend/boyfriend and other relationship terms are generally acceptable. But parent, child, sibling, spouse are acceptable if preferred by an individual. Also: fiancé/fiancée and divorce/divorcee are acceptable if relevant. 

While some -person constructions, such as chairperson and spokesperson, are commonly used, avoid tortured or unfamiliar constructions such as snowperson, baseperson or freshperson. Similarly, don’t use siblinghood in place of brotherhood or sisterhood.

The terms U.S. representative, representative, member of Congress are preferred. Congressman and congresswoman are acceptable because of their common use. Do not use congressperson.

Sports terms such as man-to-man defense and third baseman are acceptable for both men’s and women’s events, though often rephrasing is better: She plays third base. Royal titles such as princess, duchess and lady are standard. Also acceptable: goddess in religious or mythology references.

Unless city leaders (not city fathers) decide otherwise, Philadelphia remains the City of Brotherly Love. History recognizes the seven Founding Fathers of the United States. Frosty the Snowman is the character’s name, though Frosty can work as shorthand.

Here are some other examples of preferred usage. Some are new to the Stylebook. Others are changes from past style. This list is not all-inclusive; it can serve as a framework by which to consider other words. Multiple terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Choose what is appropriate and accurate in the context.

GENDER-NEUTRAL DEFINITIONS

actor
In general, use this term for any gender. Use actress for a woman only in stories about the Oscars, Emmys or Tonys, all of which use the word actress in their awards.

blond
Use blond as an adjective in all applications when relevant: She has blond hair. Avoid using either blond or blonde as a noun: He has blond hair, not he is a blond. If necessary to use as a noun in a direct quote, use blond for any gender.

brown (hair)
Use brown as an adjective in all applications when relevant: She has brown hair. Avoid using brunette as a noun unless in a direct quote. She has brown hair, not she is a brunette.

dancer, ballet dancer
But ballerina is acceptable because of broad use by dancers.

first-year student
Freshman is acceptable. Do not use freshperson or freshwoman. First-term lawmakers is preferred over freshman lawmakers.

RELATED DEFINITIONS

boy, girl
Generally acceptable to describe males or females younger than 18. While it is always inaccurate to call people under 18 men or women and people 18 and older boys or girls, be aware of nuances and unintentional implications. Referring to Black males of any age and in any context as boys, for instance, can be perceived as demeaning and call to mind historical language used by some to address Black men. Be specific about ages if possible, or refer to Black youths, child, teen or similar.

chair, chairperson, chairman, chairwoman
In general, use terms such as chair or chairperson, councilperson unless the -man or -woman terms are specified by an organization.

Capitalize as a formal title before a name, but not after: company Chair Henry Khan, committee Chairwoman Margaret Chase Smith; Margaret Chase Smith, committee chairwoman

Do not capitalize as a casual, temporary position: chair Dara Jackson.

Chair is acceptable as a verb: She chaired the meeting; he chairs the committee.

congressman, congresswoman
Use only in reference to members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The terms U.S. representative, representative, member of Congress are preferred. Congressman and congresswoman are acceptable because of their common use. Do not use congressperson.

Rep. and U.S. Rep. are the preferred first-reference forms when a formal title is used before the name of a U.S. House member. Congressman and congresswoman should appear as capitalized formal titles before a name only in direct quotation.

fiancé (man) fiancée (woman)
Generally acceptable to describe anyone who is engaged to be married, regardless of sexual orientation. If a couple requests not to use those terms or if a gender-neutral option is needed, describe couples as engaged or planning to marry or use similar phrasing.

his, her
Do not presume maleness in constructing a sentence. Usually it is possible, and always preferable, to reword the sentence to avoid gender: Reporters try to protect their sources. If essential, the pronoun they may be used as a singular, with a plural verb: The Obama administration told public schools to grant bathroom access even if a student’s gender identity isn’t what’s in their record. The official said they are afraid for their safety. Be sure the context makes clear that only one person is involved.

homophobia, homophobic
Acceptable in broad references or in quotations to the concept of fear or hatred of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The governor denounced homophobia. In individual cases, be specific about observable actions; avoid descriptions or language that assumes motives. The leaflets contained an anti-gay slur. The voters opposed same-sex marriage. Related terms include biphobia (fear or hatred specifically of bisexuals) and transphobia (fear or hatred of transgender people).

husband, wife
Regardless of sexual orientation, husband for a man or wife for a woman is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested or as a gender-neutral option.

mistress
Do not use this archaic and sexist term for a woman who is in a long-term sexual relationship with, and is financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else. Instead, use an alternative like companion, friend or lover on first reference and provide additional details later. Smith, who is married to someone else, was accused of embezzling funds to support his lover.

name changes
In general, use the name by which a person currently lives or is widely known. Include a previous name or names only if relevant to story.

spouse
A gender-neutral alternative in place of wife or husband. For example: physicians and their spouses, not physicians and their wives.

they, them, their
In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and/or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.

Usage example: A singular they might be used when an anonymous source’s gender must be shielded and other wording is overly awkward: The person feared for their own safety and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Arguments for using they/them as a singular sometimes arise with an indefinite pronoun (anyone, everyone, someone) or unspecified/unknown gender (a person, the victim, the winner). Examples of rewording:

  • All the class members raised their hands (instead of everyone raised their hands).
  • The foundation gave grants to anyone who lost a job this year (instead of anyone who lost their job).
  • Police said the victim would be identified after relatives are notified (instead of after their relatives are notified or after his or her relatives are notified).
  • Lottery officials said the winner could claim the prize Tuesday (instead of their or his or her prize).

In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person. Examples of rewording:

  • Hendricks said the new job is a thrill (instead of Hendricks said Hendricks is thrilled about the new job or Hendricks said they are thrilled about the new job).
  • Lowry’s partner is Dana Adams, an antiques dealer. They bought a house last year (instead of Lowry and Lowry’s partner bought a house last year or Lowry and their partner bought a house last year).

When they is used in the singular, it takes a plural verb: Taylor said they need a new car. (Again, be sure it’s clear from the context that only one person is involved.)

The singular reflexive themself is acceptable only if needed in constructions involving people who identify as neither male nor female. Again, it’s usually possible and always best to rephrase. Dana Adams was not available for comment yet (instead of Dana Adams did not make themself available for comment).

woman, women
Use female as an adjective, not woman. She is the first female governor of North Carolina. Treatment of the sexes should be evenhanded and free of assumptions and stereotypes.

TERMINOLOGY

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • personal pronouns (in lieu of “preferred pronouns”)
  • gender-neutral language (when possible)

  • busser
  • city leaders
  • crew, staff, workforce, workers
  • firefighter
  • hero
  • host
  • humanity, humankind, humans, human beings, people
  • human-made, human-caused, artificial, synthetic
  • maintenance hole
  • mail carrier or letter carrier
  • police officer
  • salesperson, sales associate, sales clerk, sales executive
  • server
  • singer, songwriter, singer/songwriter

AVOID USING

  • gender and sex interchangeably
  • transvestite
  • mistress
  • gay marriage

  • busboy or busgirl
  • city fathers
  • manpower
  • fireman
  • heroine
  • hostess
  • mankind
  • man-made
  • manhole
  • mailman
  • policeman/policewoman or patrolman
  • salesman/saleswoman
  • waiter/waitress
  • songstress
 

Health

WRITING GUIDELINES

In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.

Privacy when discussing health-related issues is not only paramount but also the law and so should not be included in content unless specifically relevant. When practical, let interview subjects talk about their own diagnoses, and be sure to ask about preferred terminology, as this changes from person to person. People-first language is preferred by the vast majority of groups and should be the standard approach unless in conflict with an individual’s preferred terminology.

Avoid using health-related terms figuratively (e.g., the statement fell on deaf ears or this weather is crazy). Words like victim (e.g., stroke victim) and suffer (e.g., he suffers from diabetes) should be avoided, as they imply weakness or suggest that an individual should be pitied. Likewise, calling someone with a disease or disability brave or a hero might seem like a compliment but can be just as patronizing and uncomfortable for them.

DEFINITIONS

addiction 
Addiction is a treatable disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior. Drug and alcohol use can cause changes in the brain that lead to compulsive use, despite damage incurred to a person’s health and relationships. Genetics, mental illness and other factors make certain people susceptible to addiction.

Addiction is the preferred term. The term substance use disorder is preferred by some health professionals and is acceptable in some uses, such as in quotations or scientific contexts. Alcoholism is acceptable for addiction to alcohol.

Avoid words like abuse or problem in favor of the word use with an appropriate modifier such as risky, unhealthy, excessive or heavyMisuse is also acceptable. Don’t assume all people who engage in risky use of drugs or alcohol have an addiction.

Avoid alcoholic, addict, user and abuser unless individuals prefer those terms for themselves or if they occur in quotations or names of organizations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Avoid derogatory terminology such as junkie, drunk or crackhead unless in quotations. Many researchers and organizations, including the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the International Society of Addiction Journal Editors, agree that stigmatizing or punitive-sounding language can be inaccurate by emphasizing the person, not the disease; can be a barrier to seeking treatment; and can prejudice even doctors. Instead, choose phrasing like he was addicted, people with heroin addiction or he used drugs.

Examples: Keene had trouble keeping his job because of alcoholism, not Keene had trouble keeping his job because he was an alcoholicYang joined other people with heroin addictions at the conference, not Yang joined other heroin addicts at the conference.

Avoid describing sobriety as clean unless in quotations, since it implies a previous state of dirtiness instead of disease.

Do not use the terms addiction and dependence interchangeably. Addiction usually refers to a disease or disorder; dependence may not involve one, such as some babies born to mothers who use drugs or cancer patients who take prescribed painkillers.

The term misuse can be helpful in cases of legally prescribed medications, such as if a person with a painkiller prescription purposely takes too many to get high, or excessively uses medical marijuana. Such actions do not necessarily entail an addiction but can progress into one.

alcoholic 
As an adjective, use it to describe beverages. For people, generally say people or person with alcoholism, or person recovering from alcoholism. Avoid an alcoholic unless individuals prefer that term for themselves or if they occur in quotations or names of organizations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Avoid describing people as drunks, though the word can be used as an adjective to describe someone who is temporarily intoxicated by alcohol. See addiction.

diseases
Do not capitalize diseases such as cancer, emphysema, leukemia, hepatitis, etc. When a disease is known by the name of a person or geographical area identified with it, capitalize only the proper noun element: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Ebola virus, etc.

Avoid such expressions as: He is battling cancer. She is a stroke victim. Use neutral, precise descriptions: He has stomach cancer. She had a stroke.

See Disability.

sexually transmitted disease/infection
STD/STI is acceptable on second reference. Consider using the phrase a disease spread through sex instead.

mental illness 
Do not describe an individual as having a mental illness unless it is clearly pertinent to a story and the diagnosis is properly sourced. When used, identify the source for the diagnosis. Seek firsthand knowledge derived from a medical examination; ask how the source knows. Don’t rely on hearsay or speculate on a diagnosis. Specify the time frame for the diagnosis and ask about treatment. A person’s condition can change over time, so a diagnosis of mental illness might not apply anymore. Avoid anonymous sources. On-the-record sources may be family members, mental health professionals, medical authorities, law enforcement officials or court records.

Mental illness is a general term. Specific conditions are disorders and should be used whenever possible: He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to court documents. She was diagnosed with anorexia, according to her parents. He said he was treated for depression. Avoid wording such as he is a schizophrenic, she was anorexic or he is mentally ill.

Avoid descriptions that connote pity, such as afflicted with, suffers fromvictim of, battling and demons. Rather, he has obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Avoid terms such as the mentally ill. Instead: people with mental illnesses.

Do not use derogatory terms, such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.

Avoid using mental health terms to describe unrelated issues. Don’t say that an awards show, for example, was schizophrenic.

Do not assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime, and avoid unsubstantiated statements by witnesses or first responders attributing violence to mental illness.

Studies have shown that the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent, and experts say most people who are violent do not have mental illnesses.

Nevertheless, a first responder often is quoted as saying, without direct knowledge, that a crime was committed by a person with a “history of mental illness.” If used, such comments must be attributed to law enforcement authorities, medical professionals, family members or others who have knowledge of the history and can authoritatively speak to its relevance. In the absence of definitive information, there should be a disclaimer that a link had yet to be established.

Double-check specific symptoms and diagnoses. Avoid interpreting behavior common to many people as symptoms of mental illness. Sadness, anger, exuberance and the occasional desire to be alone are normal emotions experienced by people who have mental illness as well as those who don’t.

When practical, let people with mental disorders talk about their own diagnoses.

Use the term mental or psychiatric hospital, not asylum.

TERMINOLOGY

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • person or people with [specific diagnosis]
  • person who is / people who are [specific diagnosis]
  • a person’s preferred terminology
  • living with, being treated for
  • survivor
  • deaf person/people/community

AVOID USING

  • sufferer
  • suffering from
  • stricken
  • mentally ill
  • schizo
  • crazy
  • psycho
  • insane
  • retarded
 

Immigration

WRITING GUIDELINES

In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.

Do not use the terms alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented (except when quoting people or government documents that use these terms).

Use the word immigrant with great care, not only because it is often incorrectly used to describe people who were born in the reported country, but also because it has been used negatively for so many years.

Presume innocence. Never describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.

If immigration status is explicitly relevant to your story, specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

DEFINITIONS

asylum 
Asylum-seekers are people who have left their country of origin and applied for asylum status, typically fleeing persecution and violence in their homeland. Asylum-seeker is not interchangeable with refugee.

Border Patrol 
Part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security. Capitalize Border Patrol in all references to the U.S. agency.

chain migration 
A term applied by immigration hard-liners to what the U.S. government calls family-based immigration, a long-standing program granting preference to people with relatives who already have legal residency or U.S. citizenship. Avoid the term except when used in a quotation, and explain it.

customs 
Capitalize in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and in U.S. Customs and Border Protection, both agencies of the Department of Homeland Security. Lowercase elsewhere: a customs official, a customs ruling, she went through customs. Customs and Border Patrol are not interchangeable. Border Patrol agents provide law enforcement at the border; customs agents staff ports of entry at the border and airports.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program 
A program implemented during former President Barack Obama's administration allowing young immigrants living in the country illegally who were brought here as children to remain in the U.S. Many refer to immigrants who would benefit from either the DREAM Act or DACA as "Dreamers." The program does not convey legal status but conveys temporary protection from deportation and permission to legally work, similar to protections offered under DREAM Act proposals.

Use the acronym DACA sparingly and only on second reference. Do not describe DACA as an executive action; it is an administrative program.

DREAM Act, "Dreamers" 
The DREAM Act — Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors — is congressional legislation that would allow young immigrants in the country illegally who were brought here as children to remain in the country if they meet certain criteria. The legislation has never been approved by Congress. It is similar to but not the same as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Many refer to immigrants who would benefit from either the DREAM Act or DACA as Dreamers. The term Dreamers is acceptable if necessary but should be used sparingly and in quotation marks in all references. Explain the term soon after use: They are commonly referred to as Dreamers, based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act. Often it is possible in subsequent references to use other terms such as immigrant, youths or a person's name instead of Dreamer or Dreamers.

emigrate, immigrate 
One who leaves a country emigrates from it. One who comes into a country immigrates. The same principle holds for emigrant and immigrant.

illegal immigration 
Entering or residing in a country without authorization in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

internally displaced person 
Avoid this jargon. Refer simply to people who are displaced within their own countries or otherwise describe their situation. Do not call them refugees if they are within their own country.

migrant 
Migrants normally are people who move from place to place for temporary work or economic advantage. The term also may be used for those whose reason for leaving is not clear, or to cover people who may also be refugees or asylum-seekers, but other terms are strongly preferred: people struggling to enter Europe, Cubans seeking new lives in the United States. NOTE: People moving within the 50 U.S. states, or from a U.S. territory to one of the 50 states, are better referred to as migrants, not immigrants, because they are moving within a single country.

refugee 
Refugees are people forced to leave their home or country to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 
The investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. It incorporates some of the functions of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and the former Customs service. ICE is acceptable on second reference.

TERMINOLOGY

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • asylee
  • asylum-seeker
  • DACA*
  • “Dreamer”**
  • emigrant and immigrant
  • foreign national
  • ICE*
  • person seeking citizenship
  • person with citizenship in
  • refugee
  • refused asylum seeker

 *Only on second reference

**Use in quotations and make sure the term has been defined

AVOID USING

  • alien
  • chain migration*
  • illegal*
  • internally displaced person
  • legal citizen
  • legal resident
  • legalized
  • natural, naturalized (except when used in the legal sense of U.S. immigration law)
  • second-generation
  • undocumented*

*Only acceptable to use when quoting people or government documents that use this term

 

Politics and religion

WRITING GUIDELINES

In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.

Reference to political party affiliation or religion is generally not necessary. Only during specific research might it be relevant to reference political party affiliation or religion.

A political figure's party affiliation is often relevant, but not always. Include party affiliation if a politician's actions could reasonably be seen as having an effect on policy or debate, or if readers need it for understanding.

POLITICAL DEFINITIONS

battleground states
States (like Nevada) where candidates from both major political parties have a reasonable chance for victory in a statewide race or presidential vote.

majority
A majority is more than half the votes cast

PAC
Political Action Committee raises money for candidates or parties from donations by individuals, but not businesses or labor unions. A super PAC may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including from corporations and unions, to support candidates for federal office but must operate independently.

party affiliation
A candidate’s political party is essential information in any election, campaign or issue story.

populist
Someone who espouses the interests of common people, often low taxes and small government.

RELIGIOUS DEFINITIONS

deities
Proper names of monotheistic deities: God, Allah, the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer, the Holy Spirit, etc. Most monotheistic religions do not ascribe a gender to God; avoiding pronouns is accurate and respectful in all cases. 

Islamist
An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.

Islam
The religion of more than one billion people in the world, making it the world's second-largest faith after Christianity. Followers are called Muslims. Their holy book is the Quran, which according to Islamic belief was revealed by Allah (God) to the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century in Mecca and Medina. The place of worship is a mosque. The weekly holy day is Friday.

Judaism
Both an ethnicity and a religion.

life of Christ
Major events in the life of Jesus Christ in references that do not use his name: The doctrines of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension are central to Christian belief.

Meditation and reflection room
Located in the William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center. The Meditation and reflection room provides a space on campus for students for meditation and reflection. It includes a foot wash and storage space for mats and shoes.

rites
Proper names for rites that commemorate the Last Supper or signify a belief in Christ’s presence: the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Holy Eucharist.

TERMINOLOGY

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • Jewish or Jew in non-derogatory context
  • religious and faith references when appropriate
  • political party affiliation when relevant

AVOID USING

  • Liberal, conservative
  • Demeaning terminology: snowflake, leftist, right-winged, etc.
 

Race and ethnicity

WRITING GUIDELINES

In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.

Refrain from using the term native Nevadan as a general term for people born and raised in Nevada as it is not respectful to Indigenous people who truly are native to the land here in Nevada. Instead, use phrases like born and raised or lived in Nevada their whole life.

Reporting and writing about issues involving race calls for thoughtful consideration, precise language and discussions with others of diverse backgrounds whenever possible about how to frame coverage or what language is most appropriate, accurate and fair.

Avoid broad generalizations and labels; race and ethnicity are one part of a person’s identity. Identifying people by race and reporting on actions that have to do with race often go beyond simple style questions, challenging journalists to think broadly about racial issues before having to make decisions on specific situations and stories.

Do not write in a way that assumes white is default. Not: The officer is accused of choking Owens, who is Black. Instead: The white officer is accused of choking Owens, who is Black.

Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race. Often, it is an irrelevant factor. and drawing unnecessary attention to someone’s race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry. There are, however, occasions when race is pertinent: In stories that involve significant, groundbreaking or historic events, such as being elected U.S. president, being named to the U.S. Supreme Court or other notable occurrences. Barack Obama was the first Black U.S. president. Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Jeremy Lin is the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.

In cases where suspects or missing persons are being sought, and the descriptions provided are detailed and not solely racial, any racial reference should be removed when the individual is apprehended or found.

When reporting a demonstration, disturbance or other conflict involving race (including verbal conflicts) or issues like civil rights, include racial or ethnic details only when they are clearly relevant and that relevance is explicit in the story.

Do not use a derogatory term except in rare circumstances when it is crucial to the story or the understanding of a news event. Flag the contents in an editor’s note.

The term Latinx is used widely for events and groups on campus but is not everyone’s preferred terminology. Use preferred terms.

For compound proper nouns and adjectives do not use a hyphen in designating dual heritage: Italian American, Mexican American (a change in 2019).

DEFINITIONS

Aborigine 
An outdated term referring to aboriginal people in Australia. It is considered offensive by some and should be avoided.

African American 
No hyphen (a change in 2019 for this and other dual heritage terms). Acceptable for an American Black person of African descent. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow a person’s preference.

American Indians, Native Americans 
Both are acceptable terms in general references for those in the U.S. when referring to two or more people of different tribal affiliations. For individuals, use the name of the tribe; if that information is not immediately available, try to obtain it. He is a Navajo commissioner. She is a member of the Nisqually Indian Tribe. He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Some tribes and tribal nations use member; others use citizen. If in doubt, use citizen. Avoid words such as wampum, warpath, powwow, teepee, brave, squaw, etc., which can be disparaging and offensive. In Alaska, the Indigenous groups are collectively known as Alaska Natives.

Indian is used to describe the peoples and cultures of the South Asian nation of India. Do not use the term as a shorthand for American Indians.

Asian American No hyphen (a change in 2019 for this and other dual heritage terms). Acceptable for an American of Asian descent. When possible, refer to a person’s country of origin or follow the person’s preference. For example: Filipino American or Indian American.

biracial, multiracial 
Acceptable, when clearly relevant, to describe people with more than one racial heritage. Usually more useful when describing large, diverse groups of people than individuals. Avoid mixed-race, which can carry negative connotations, unless a story subject prefers the term. Be specific, if possible, and then use biracial for people of two heritages or multiracial for those of two or more on subsequent references if needed. Examples: She has an African American father and a white mother instead of She is biracial. But: The study of biracial people showed a split in support along gender lines. Multiracial can encompass people of any combination of races.

Black (adj.) 
Use the capitalized term as an adjective in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense: Black people, Black culture, Black literature, Black studies, Black colleges.

Black(s), white(s) (n.) 
Do not use either term as a singular noun. For plurals, phrasing such as Black people, white people, Black teachers, white students is often preferable when clearly relevant. White officers account for 64% of the police force, Black officers 21% and Latino officers 15%. The gunman targeted Black churchgoers. The plural nouns Blacks and whites are generally acceptable when clearly relevant and needed for reasons of space or sentence construction. He helped integrate dance halls among Blacks, whites, Latinos and Asian AmericansBlack and white are acceptable as adjectives when relevant.

African American is also acceptable for those in the U.S. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow an individual’s preference if known, and be specific when possible and relevant. Minneapolis has a large Somali American population because of refugee resettlement. The author is Senegalese American.

Use of the capitalized Black recognizes that language has evolved, along with the common understanding that especially in the United States, the term reflects a shared identity and culture rather than a skin color alone.

Also use Black in racial, ethnic and cultural differences outside the U.S. to avoid equating a person with a skin color.

Use Negro or colored only in names of organizations or in rare quotations when essential.

boy, girl 
Generally acceptable to describe males or females younger than 18. While it is always inaccurate to call people under 18 men or women and people 18 and older boys or girls, be aware of nuances and unintentional implications. Referring to Black males of any age and in any context as boys, for instance, can be perceived as demeaning and call to mind historical language used by some to address Black men. Be specific about ages if possible, or refer to Black youths, children, teens or similar.

brown
Avoid this broad and imprecise term in racial, ethnic or cultural references unless as part of a direct quotation. Interpretations of what the term includes vary widely.

Caucasian 
Avoid as a synonym for white, unless in a quotation.

Chicano 
A term that Mexican Americans in the U.S. Southwest sometimes use to describe their heritage. Use only if it is a person’s preference.

dual heritage 
No hyphen (a change in 2019 from previous style) for terms such as African American, Asian American and Filipino American, used when relevant to refer to an American person’s heritage. The terms are less common when used to describe non-Americans, but may be used when relevant: Turkish German for a German of Turkish descent.

ghetto, ghettos 
Do not use indiscriminately as a synonym for the sections of cities inhabited by minorities or poor people. Ghetto has a connotation that government decree has forced people to live in a certain area.

In most cases, section, district, slum area or quarter is the more accurate word.

Hispanic 
A person from — or whose ancestors were from — a Spanish-speaking land or culture. Latino, Latina or Latinx are sometimes preferred. Follow the person’s preference. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican or Mexican American.

Indigenous 
Capitalize this term used to refer to original inhabitants of a place. Aboriginal leaders welcomed a new era of Indigenous relations in Australia. Bolivia’s Indigenous peoples represent some 62% of the population.

Latino, Latina 
Latino is often the preferred noun or adjective for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America. Latina is the feminine form. Some prefer the recently coined gender-neutral term Latinx. For groups of females, use the plural Latinas; for groups of males or of mixed gender, use the plural LatinosHispanics is also generally acceptable for those in the U.S. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican American.

minority, racial minority
The term is acceptable as an adjective in broad references to multiple races other than white in the United States: We will hire more members of minority groups.

Be sure the term is accurate in each circumstance, since what constitutes a racial minority varies by location.

Be specific whenever possible by referring to, for instance, Black Americans, Chinese Americans or members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Examples: The poll found that Black and Latino Americans are bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s financial impact, not minorities are bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s financial impact. Most of the magazine’s readers are Black women, not Most of the magazine’s readers are minority women.

Do not use minority as a noun in the singular. The plural minorities is acceptable when needed for reasons of space or sentence construction. But phrasing such as minority students or minority communities is preferable.

minoritized, underrepresented
These terms are controversial. Use only when quoting an accrediting body, institution or other authoritative source.

Orient, Oriental 
Do not use when referring to East Asian nations and their peoples. Asian is the acceptable term for an inhabitant of those regions.

people of color 
The term is acceptable when necessary in broad references to multiple races other than white: We will hire more people of color. Nine playwrights of color collaborated on the script. Be aware, however, that many people of various races object to the term for various reasons, including that it lumps together into one monolithic group anyone who isn’t white.

Be specific whenever possible by referring to, for instance, Black Americans, Chinese Americans or members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Examples: The poll found that Black and Latino Americans are bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s financial impact, not people of color are bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s financial impact. Most of the magazine’s readers are Black women, not Most of the magazine’s readers are women of color.

In some cases, other wording may be appropriate. Examples: people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds; diverse groups; various heritages; different cultures.

Do not use person of color for an individual.

Do not use the term Black, Indigenous and people of color, which some see as more inclusive by distinguishing the experiences of Black and Indigenous people but others see as less inclusive by diminishing the experiences of everyone else. Similarly, do not use the term Black, Asian and minority ethnic.

Do not use the shorthand POC, BIPOC or BAME unless necessary in a direct quotation; when used, explain it.

racist, racism
Racism is a doctrine asserting racial differences in character, intelligence, etc., and the superiority of one race over another, or racial discrimination or feelings of hatred or bigotry toward people of another race.

The terms systemic racism, structural racism and institutional racism refer to social, political and institutional systems and cultures that contribute to racial inequality in areas such as employment, health care, housing, the criminal justice system and education. Avoid shortening this use to simply racism to avoid confusion with the other definition.

Some use the term racist to refer to anyone who benefits from systemic racism and doesn’t actively work to dismantle it. Avoid this use unless essential in a direct quotation; if used, explain it.

Deciding whether a specific statement, action, policy, etc. should be termed racist or characterized in a different way often is not clear-cut. Such decisions should include discussion with colleagues and/or others from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. At the University, that conversation should also include stakeholders.

Begin by assessing the facts: Does the statement, action, policy, etc. meet the definition of racism? That assessment need not involve examining the motivation of the person who spoke or acted, which is a separate issue that may not be related to how the statement or action itself can be characterized.

In general, avoid using racist or any other label as a noun for a person; it’s far harder to match the complexity of a person to a definition or label than it is a statement or action. Instead, be specific in describing the person’s words or actions. Again, discuss with senior managers, colleagues and others from diverse backgrounds when the description may be appropriate for a person.

Cases in which the term racist might be used include identifying as racist support for avowed racist organizations, statements calling another race or ethnic group inferior, or employing negative stereotypes for different racial or ethnic groups. The video shows the candidate wearing blackface and making racist statements including, “You’re not white, so you can’t be right.”

If racist is not the appropriate term, give careful thought to how best to describe the situation. Depending on the specifics of what was said or done, alternatives may include xenophobic, bigoted, biased, nativist, racially divisive, or in some cases, simply racial.

Avoid racially charged, racially motivated or racially tinged, euphemisms which convey little meaning.

Always provide specifics to describe the words or actions in question; using a broad and descriptive term such as racist requires supporting details and context. In doing so, avoid repeating derogatory terms except in the rare circumstances when it is crucial to the story or the understanding of a news event.

Provide context and historical perspective when appropriate to help convey the impact or implications of the words or actions. For example, a story about a candidate wearing blackface should include context about performers in the 1800s who darkened their faces to create bigoted caricatures of Black people. A story about comments that certain members of Congress should “go back” to their “broken and crime-infested” countries should include the context that “go back to where you came from” is a racist insult aimed for decades at immigrants and African Americans in the United States.

slaves, enslaved people 
The term slaves denotes an inherent identity of a person or people treated as chattel or property. The term enslaved people underlines that the slave status has been imposed on individuals. Many prefer the term enslaved person/people to separate people’s identity from their circumstances. Others prefer the term slave as a way to make a point of the circumstances. Either term is acceptable. Try to determine an individual’s preference.

tribe 
Refers to a sovereign political entity, communities sharing a common ancestry, culture or language, and a social group of linked families who may be part of an ethnic group. Capitalize the word tribe when part of a formal name of sovereign political entities, or communities sharing a common ancestry, culture or language. Identify tribes by the political identity specified by the tribe, nation or community: the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation. The term ethnic group is preferred when referring to ethnicity or ethnic violence.

TERMINOLOGY

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • biracial, multiracial
  • white
  • American Indians
  • Asian

AVOID USING

  • mixed-race, which can carry negative connotations
  • Caucasian as a synonym for white
  • POC, BIPOC or BAME unless in a direct quote
  • Wampum, warpath, powwow, teepee, brave, squaw, etc. (avoid using figuratively or outside of appropriate cultural usage)
  • Indian when not used to describe the peoples and cultures of the South Asian nation of India
  • Orient, Oriental
  • Aborigine
 

Sexual and domestic violence

WRITING GUIDELINES

In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.

Consider using content warnings for stories on these sensitive subjects. ALWAYS use approved language from University press releases, police reports, etc. when available.

Image recommendations

Don't perpetuate stereotypes (e.g., the sad woman, the dark alley).

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­DEFINITIONS

Acts of interpersonal and dating violence

  • verbal violence: insulting a dating partner
  • physical violence: hitting or beating
  • sexual violence: using alcohol, blackmail or force to gain sex

alleged victim 
Alleged victim of harassment means a person who brought forward allegations of harassment against him or her through a formal procedure, without prejudice to whether or not such harassment is finally established.

bystander role
The bystander role includes interrupting situations that could lead to assault before it happens or during an incident; speaking out against social norms that support sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking; and having skills to be an effective and supportive ally to survivors.

child sexual abuse 
Child sexual abuse material (legally known as child pornography) refers to any content that depicts sexually explicit activities involving a child. Visual depictions include photographs, videos, digital or computer-generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor.

consent
A key issue in many cases is the element of consent, and definitions of what constitutes consent vary. Refer to the laws of the jurisdiction in question.

Consent must be informed, voluntary and mutual and can be withdrawn at any time. There is no consent when there is force, expressed or implied, or when coercion, intimidation, threats or duress is used. Whether a person has taken advantage of a position of influence over another person may be a factor in determining consent. Silence or absence of resistance does not imply consent. Past consent to sexual activity with another person does not imply ongoing future consent with that person or consent to that same sexual activity with another person. If a person is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired so that such person cannot understand the fact, nature or extent of the sexual situation, there is no consent; this includes impairment or incapacitation due to alcohol or drug consumption that meets this standard, or being asleep or unconscious.

consent culture; global consent culture
Consent culture relies on spoken language to ensure complete, timely and informed consent.

To root out a culture that fosters sexual and domestic violence, use language that promotes enthusiastic, verbal consent, that respects individuals’ personal boundaries, that fosters vocal anti-rape discussions instead of shutting them down and that acknowledges and supports vulnerable sharing of personal stories.

date rape vs. acquaintance rape
Date rape is a form of acquaintance rape and dating violence. The two phrases are often used interchangeably, but date rape specifically refers to a rape in which there has been some sort of romantic or potentially sexual relationship between the two parties. Acquaintance rape also includes rapes in which the victim and perpetrator have been in a non-romantic, non-sexual relationship, for example as co-workers or neighbors.

domestic violence
The term domestic violence includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.

gray rape
Gray rape is sex for which consent is unclear. The term was popularized by Laura Sessions Stepp in her viral 2007 Cosmopolitan article "A New Kind of Date Rape," which says gray rape is "somewhere between consent and denial and is even more confusing than date rape because often both parties are unsure of who wanted what." The term gray rape has been criticized.

harassment
Harassment items include unwanted comments or images of a sexual nature, sexual rumors and sexual/nude photos taken of someone without permission.

hookup culture
Defined as a range of behaviors from kissing to sex with someone outside of a formal relationship.

interpersonal violence
Interpersonal violence items include unwanted slapping, biting, hitting/punching or beating up of a romantic partner.

#MeToo
#MeToo was initiated by Tarana Burke and spread via social media. The #MeToo movement went viral in October 2017. Use the # in all instances – even when not explicitly describing tweets related to it – with movement lowercase.

Responding to increased coverage of #MeToo, the AP revised its guidelines for terminology surrounding the movement, preferring sexual misconduct to sexual harassment. Harassment has legal but broad definitions and sometimes harassment may be too mild for the behavior being alleged. Specify the behavior under discussion and use sexual misconduct in more broad-based instances.

on-going consent
Active consent means affirmative, honest, conscious, voluntary, sober and ongoing agreement to participate in sexual activity. Each person involved is responsible for ensuring that there is active consent to engage in each sexual act.

perpetrators, survivors, and non-victims/non-perpetrators

  • Conducted (perpetrated)
  • Experienced (survived)
  • Perpetrators can also be identified as a survivor. Most survivors, however, do not identify as a perpetrator

rape
Rape is defined in Nevada as penetrative experiences with tactics of force, threat of force or inability to consent (i.e. due to incapacitation).

Rape is penetration, no matter how slight, of (1) the vagina or anus of a person by any body part of another person or by an object, or (2) the mouth of a person by a sex organ of another person, through the use of force, threat of force or due to the person’s inability to give consent mental or physical incapacitation.

rape culture
Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized sexual violence. When society normalizes sexualized violence, it accepts and creates rape culture.

rapereporting
Rapereporting suggests that the more we talk about rape, the less it happens.

sexual assault
Sexual assault is actual or attempted sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent. Sexual assault includes, but is not limited to: coercing, forcing or attempting to coerce or force a person to touch another person’s intimate parts without that person’s consent; or rape.

Sexual Conduct and Campus Safety survey (SCCS)
Administered through the Office of Student Persistence Research, the Sexual Conduct and Campus Safety (SCCS) survey originated in 2014 and occurs every two years. The survey assesses students’ perceptions of campus safety, bystander actions, practice of sexual consent, alcohol endorsement, hookup engagement and experience with sexual violence (harassment, stalking, interpersonal violence, and unwanted sexual contact/sexual assault).

All degree-seeking students at the University of Nevada, Reno are invited to take the Sexual Conduct and Campus Safety survey. The survey provides data to further inform the support services of the Equal Opportunity/Title IX Office, Campus Victim Advocate, Office of Student Conduct, Fraternity and Sorority Life and Dean of Students.

sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including but not limited to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or nonverbal conduct of a sexual nature.

The terms sexual harassment and sexual misconduct generally denote behavior that does not include rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse or sexual violence. Sexual misconduct is preferred over sexual harassment, as it encompasses a broader range of misbehavior and does not run the risk of diminishing an alleged act. Use sexual harassment when reporting on a specific legal charge or formal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.

sexual misconduct vs. sexual harassment
Both terms are vague – readers can only fully understand the story if journalists clarify what they are reporting. Be as specific as possible in describing the kinds of behavior that is being alleged or admitted, such as groping, unwanted kissing, disrobing or verbal or physical abuse or assault.
 
In headlines or subhead lines, use the generalized description sexual misconduct, rather than sexual harassment. It encompasses a broader range of sexual misbehavior and does not run the risk of diminishing some of the alleged acts. 

AP favors sexual misconduct over sexual harassment in vague references but encourages reporters to be specific about the misbehavior in question. Specificity is key.

Sexual harassment has a particular legal meaning. It is, per Webster’s New World College Dictionary, “inappropriate, unwelcome, and, typically, persistent behavior, as by an employer or co-worker, that is sexual in nature, specifically when actionable under federal or state statutes.”

sexual relationship
The term sexual relationship implies consent. Under state laws, a minor cannot give sexual consent to an adult. Thus, do not write that an adult had a sexual relationship with or had sex with a minor or vice versa. (The age of consent varies by jurisdiction; know the law of the state or jurisdiction in question.) In other cases, consider carefully whether relationship is an appropriate term.

sexual violence events

  • Harassment items include unwanted comments or images of a sexual nature, sexual rumors, and sexual/nude photos taken of someone without permission.
  • Stalking items include unwanted following or tracking of another.
  • Interpersonal violence items include unwanted slapping, biting, hitting/punching or beating up of a romantic partner.
  • Unwanted sexual contact ranges from touching to penetration.

The term sexual violence may occasionally be used in broad references to sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse. Use the more specific wording for individual cases.

stalking
Stalking is unwanted following or tracking of another.

survivor, victim
AP has instructed writers to use the terms victim and survivor sparingly when discussing people who have faced sexual misconduct or mass shootings. The AP Stylebook urges reporters and editors to “use these terms with care because they can be imprecise and politically and legally fraught.” These words can apply to people in various situations and news coverage of subjects such as sexual assault, mass shootings and natural disasters.

Survivor can denote someone who has lived through an injury or disease, but it also can apply to someone who endured a threat but escaped injury altogether. Example: a mass shooting survivor. Likewise, victim can create confusion because it can variously mean someone killed, injured or subjected to mistreatment such as sexual misconduct.

Survivor is often used to describe people who have lived through physical or emotional trauma, as in abuse or rape survivor. It is best to be specific when referring to individuals, especially if the person was never in danger of death. Use of survivor gets more latitude when describing groups. A group of Holocaust survivors met at the memorial.

well-known people
Accusations of misconduct by powerful or well-known people in entertainment, media, politics and other professions may be made known. While there is clearly news interest, standards of fairness must not be abandoned. Accusations should be well-documented and corroborated in some way before we report on them, including an effort to get comment from the accused individuals or their representatives. 

victim; alleged victim
In crime stories, avoid alleged victim if possible; it is too easily construed as skepticism. In stories in which sexual misconduct or other allegations are leveled, consider calling the person making the allegations an accuser instead of a victim if shorthand is needed, to avoid implications of guilt on the part of the accused.

Do not refer to a person making an accusation as a victim unless the accused person has been convicted. Avoid the term alleged victim. The term accuser is acceptable, especially when referring to a group of people: Bill Cosby’s accusers. Limit its use when referring to an individual in favor of the correct pronoun. The woman said the defendant forcibly kissed her.

victim advocate
Victim advocates are trained to support victims of crime. They offer emotional support, victims’ rights information, help in finding needed resources and assistance in filling out crime victim related forms. 

victim blaming
Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. The study of victimology seeks to mitigate the prejudice against victims, and the perception that victims are in any way responsible for the actions of offenders.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Content warnings should be used whenever you’re including an explicit description of the motivation for, events during or immediate impact on the survivor after an attack.
  • Understand that covering a story about someone who killed or abused their partner is a domestic violence story.
  • Proceed with care when using the terms sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, along with others such as rape, molestation, unwanted sex, sexual relationship, etc. Authorities, people making accusations and people who stand accused use a variety of language and terminology to cover a wide spectrum of actions or behavior. Interpretations can vary widely. Do not simply repeat those terms.
  • Instead, pay close attention to legal definitions, which vary by jurisdiction, and the wording of criminal charges or convictions. Consider the nuance of each situation and what may be conveyed or perceived by the language used.
  • As with all accusations, allegations should be well documented and corroborated. Always seek comment from accused individuals or their representatives.
  • We generally do not identify, in text or images, those who say they have been sexually assaulted or subjected to extreme abuse. We may identify victims of sexual assault or extreme abuse when victims publicly identify themselves. Decisions on identifying people who say they have been subject to other forms of sexual misconduct should be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the allegations.
  • Rape or sexual assault is in no way associated with normal sexual activity. Rape or assault is not “sex.” A pattern of abuse is not an “affair.”
  • Trafficking in women is not the same as prostitution.
  • People who have suffered sexual violence may not wish to be described as a victim, unless they choose the word themselves. Many prefer the word survivor.
  • Do not assume that rape happens in only one way and avoid language that reinforces a dominant narrative that rape is only being attacked by a stranger leaping from the bushes.
  • Be wary of taking words verbatim from press releases and/or police reports. Keep language as neutral as possible.
  • During conflict, rape by combatants is a war crime. Describing it as an unfortunate but predictable aspect of war is not acceptable.
  • When describing an assault, try to strike a balance when deciding how much graphic detail to include. After using a broad term such as sexual misconduct or sexual assault, describe generally the kinds of behavior alleged or admitted – such as groping, unwanted kissing, disrobing, verbal abuse, digital penetration, oral sex, etc. Provide enough detail to make clear the alleged crimes, while avoiding a level of detail that could be perceived as gratuitous. Too much can be gratuitous; too little can weaken the survivor’s case.
  • Do not report from the lens of the abuser. Reporting from the lens of the abuser is the same as victim blaming. When reporting on court cases, use the language contained in the charges and/or conviction. If a defendant is charged with sexual assault, do not say he is charged with rape. If a defendant is convicted on a charge of sexual misconduct, do not say he was convicted of having unwanted sex with the victim or convicted of rape. If someone is charged with sexual harassment, do not say they are accused of sexual assault.
  • It may be appropriate to explain why a story does or does not use certain terms: The woman said she was raped; prosecutors charged the man with sexual assault under the definitions in state law. Another example: He was convicted of taking indecent liberties, which is the formal criminal charge.
  • Resist the narrative that sexual and domestic violence is a “women’s issue.” It’s a human issue.
  • Whenever possible, mention where survivors of sexual and domestic violence can get help.

TERMINOLOGY

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • alleged victim
  • child sexual abuse content
  • sexual misconduct (specificity is key)
  • gun-safety laws

AVOID USING

  • accuser
  • child pornography, child porn, kiddy porn
  • sexual harassment
  • gun control
  • survivor, victim (unless used to self-identify)

 

Socioeconomics

WRITING GUIDELINES

In general, anything beyond name and position should be kept out of stories or content unless clearly relevant. Use people-first language when appropriate, and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.

Socioeconomic status encompasses not only income but also educational attainment, occupational prestige, and subjective perceptions of social status and social class. SES encompasses quality of life attributes and opportunities afforded to people within society and is a consistent predictor of a vast array of psychological outcomes. Because SES is complex, precise terminology that appropriately describes a level of specificity and sensitivity is essential to minimize bias in language.

Reporting SES

When reporting SES, provide as much detailed information as possible about people’s income, education, and occupations or employment circumstances. For example, when referring to “low-income participants” or “high-income participants,” classify whether reported incomes take into account household size, or provide information about the relation between household incomes and federal poverty guidelines. Additionally, SES can be described by providing information related to specific contextual and environmental conditions such as participants housing arrangement (e.g., renting a home, owning a home, residing in subsidized housing) and neighborhood characteristics such as median household income, percentage of unemployed people, or proportion of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch in local schools.

Pejorative or stereotyping terms

Avoid using broad, pejorative, and generalizing terms to discuss SES. Specifically, negative connotations are associated with terms such as the homeless, inner-city, ghetto, the projects, poverty stricken and welfare reliant.

  • Use specific, person-first language such as mothers who receive TANF benefits rather than welfare mothers (TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and is the proper term for the current welfare program in the United States).
  • When discussing people without a fixed, regular, or adequate nighttime residence, use specific language that addresses the quality or lack of housing or length of time without housing, not whether the people consider their residence a home. That is, use language like people experiencing homelessness, people who are homeless, people in emergency shelter, or people in transitional housing, rather than calling people the homeless.

It is important to note that SES terms such as low-income and poor have historically served as implicit descriptors for racial and/or ethnic minority people. Thus, it is critical to include racial and/or ethnic descriptors within SES categories. Implicit biases around economic and occupational status can result in deficit-based language that blames individuals for their occupational, educational or economic situation (e.g., attendant economic deficits) rather than recognizing a broader societal context that influences individual circumstances.

Deficit-based language also focuses on what people lack rather than on what they possess. Instead of labeling people as high school dropouts, being poorly educated or having little education, provide more sensitive and specific descriptors such as people who do not have a high school diploma or equivalent. Alternatively, by adopting a strengths-based perspective, authors can write about people who have a grade school education. Likewise, instead of writing about an achievement gap, write about an opportunity gap to emphasize how the context in which people live affects their outcomes or opportunities.

DEFINITIONS

food insecurity, hunger
The University uses the term food insecurity when it references students who may have to make decisions between buying enough food or paying for other essentials, such as rent or tuition. The term may require a brief explanation if the meaning isn't clear from the context.

Per the USDA definitions of food security:

  • Food insecurity – the condition assessed in the food security survey and represented in USDA food security reports – is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.
  • Hunger is an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity.

household, housing unit
Used by the Census Bureau, a household is made up of all occupants of a housing unit. A household may contain more than one family or may be used by one person.

housing unit, as defined by the bureau, is a group of rooms or single room occupied by people who do not live and eat with any other person in the structure. It must have either direct access from the outside or through a common hall, or have a kitchen or cooking equipment for the exclusive use of the occupants.

homeless, homelessness
Homeless is generally acceptable as an adjective to describe people without a fixed residence. Avoid the dehumanizing collective noun the homeless, instead using constructions like homeless people, people without housing or people without homes.

Mention that a person is homeless only when relevant. Do not stereotype homeless people as dirty, mentally ill, addicted to drugs or alcohol, reliant on charity or criminals. Those conditions can often contribute to or be byproducts of homelessness, but many homeless people also hold jobs and are self-sufficient.

Homeless shelter is an acceptable term for a building that provides free or very inexpensive but temporary indoor refuge for people without homes, generally run by a government or charity. Do not use flophouse.

Government agencies do not always agree on what legally constitutes homelessness, but the term generally refers to people staying in shelters or on the street.

Avoid disparaging terminology such as derelict, bum, beggar, tramp and hobo. Terms like couch surfing (staying temporarily in various households) or transient (someone who moves from city to city but is not necessarily homeless) can be useful to describe specific situations. Avoid vagrant.

migrant is someone who moves from place to place for temporary work or economic advantage and is usually not considered homeless.

Indigent describes someone who is very poor and is not synonymous with homeless.

poverty level
An income level judged inadequate to provide a family or individual with the essentials of life. The figure for the United States is adjusted regularly to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index.

ACCEPTABLE TO USE

  • people whose incomes are below the federal poverty threshold
  • people whose self-reported income were in the lowest income bracket

  • mothers who receive TANF benefits
  • people who are unable to work because of a disability
  • families whose main income is from TANF benefits

  • people who have completed 10th grade

AVOID USING

  • the poor
  • low-class people
  • poor people

Note: Many find the terms “low class” and “poor” pejorative. Use person-first language instead. Define income brackets and levels if possible.


  • welfare mothers
  • welfare reliant

  • high-school dropouts
  • achievement gap