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Inclusive Language


Although these identity groups are often lumped together (ex: “LGBTQ+”), it is essential to note that gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same.

  • Sexual Orientation: A person’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person. Sexual orientations can include heterosexual (straight), homosexual (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, etc.), and asexual.
  • Gender Identity: One's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

LGBTQ+, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender+, and Queer+, is an umbrella term for people who do not identify as straight or cisgender. 

Terminology on gender identity and sexual orientation is fluid and ever-changing. For more in-depth information on definitions of gender and sexuality terms, please refer to our LGBTQ+ Resource Guide. This guide will not cover gender and sexuality definitions but inclusive grammar and word choice.

Gender Neutrality

Gender neutrality is the idea that policies, language, and other social institutions (social structures or gender roles) should avoid distinguishing roles according to people's sex or gender. This is to avoid discrimination that may arise due to the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than another.

Make content gender-neutral wherever possible. Use words that include all genders. Examples include author, spokesperson, sales representative, business owner, entrepreneur, retailer, actor, master of ceremonies, fellow as an adjective (i.e., fellow alumni), human beings, humanity, people, individuals, etc. Avoid words that end in “-man” with a gender-neutral alternative. Examples include:

Instead of:


best man for the job

best candidate


business personnel or business people


chair, department chair








first-year student


partner, spouse


postal worker, letter carrier


humankind, people, humanity


synthetic, manufactured, artificial, handmade, machine-made, constructed or produced


personnel, employees, staff

mothering, fathering

caring, nurturing, parenting

to man

to run, to operate, to staff


Avoid words and phrases that indicate gender bias, such as irrelevant descriptions of appearance. Do not use “he” as an all-inclusive pronoun and avoid “guys” as a way to refer to mixed-gender groups. “They” or “their” are suitable as singular pronouns. If “he or she” is used, change the subject to the plural so that “they” becomes the appropriate pronoun.

If possible, revise a sentence to eliminate the pronoun altogether, or repeat the noun or use a synonym.

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