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How to write about people

Inclusive language

We are inclusive and respectful when we write about people. That means we emphasise the person, not their condition.

Avoid passive, victim words.

Ages

Don’t reference a person’s age unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing.

Ages are given between commas.

Good:

John Smith, 32, a doctor…

Bad:

John Smith, aged 32, a doctor…

These are our agreed age ranges and how to reference them:

• fertilised egg = from conception to 14 days
• embryo = from 2 to 9 weeks
• unborn baby = from week 10 to birth
• baby = 0 to 12 months
• child = 1 to 12 years
teenager, young person = 13 to 19 years – don’t use pubescent or adolescent
• people, adults = 20 to 59 years
• older people = 60+ years – don’t use old age pensioner, pensioner or OAP

Examples

Babies and children under 6 automatically get a GP visit card.
If your baby gets chickenpox, you should take them to a GP if they are under 6 months old.
Chickenpox can cause serious problems for pregnant woman and their unborn babies. (Not ‘…unborn babies or embryos’.)
Adults and older people (over 60) are more at risk of complications from chickenpox.

Disability, medical conditions, mental and cognitive conditions

Don’t refer to a person’s disability or condition unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing.

If you need to mention it, use language that emphasizes the person first: ‘person with a disability’ rather than ‘disabled person.’

Never use the words ‘suffer,’ ‘victim,’ ‘mentally ill’ or ‘handicapped’.

Do not use these words

Use these words

(the) handicapped, (the) disabled, invalid, cripple

people with disabilities, person with a disability, child with a disability

afflicted by, suffers from, victim of  person who has [name of condition or impairment]
confined to a wheelchair, in a wheelchairwheelchair user, person who uses a wheelchair
mentally handicapped, retarded, madwith a learning disability (singular) with learning disabilities (plural)
disabled toilet, disabled parkingaccessible toilet, accessible parking
the deafdeaf person; hearing-impaired person
the blindblind people; blind and partially sighted people

an epileptic, diabetic, depressive
person with epilepsy, diabetes, depression or someone who has epilepsy, diabetes, depression
normal, able-bodied, healthy (in context) non-disabled person

Gender and sexuality

Use gender-neutral text wherever possible. Use ‘them’, ‘their’, ‘they’. Use common neutral alternatives, like ‘businessperson’ instead of ‘businessman.’

Use the following words as modifiers, but never as nouns:

  • lesbian
  • gay
  • bisexual
  • homosexual
  • transgender (not ‘transgendered’)
  • trans
  • LGBT

Good:

He is bisexual

Bad:

He is a bisexual.

Don’t use:

  • lifestyle
  • preference
  • gay or same-sex marriage (it’s just marriage unless the distinction is technically important to what you’re writing)
  • sex abuse (use sexual abuse)