How to write about people
We are inclusive and respectful when we write about people. That means we emphasise the person, not their condition.
Avoid passive, victim words.
Don’t reference a person’s age unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing.
Ages are given between commas.
John Smith, 32, a doctor…
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
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 wheelchair||wheelchair user, person who uses a wheelchair|
|mentally handicapped, retarded, mad||with a learning disability (singular) with learning disabilities (plural)|
|disabled toilet, disabled parking||accessible toilet, accessible parking|
|the deaf||deaf person; hearing-impaired person|
|the blind||blind 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:
- transgender (not ‘transgendered’)
He is bisexual
He is a bisexual.
- 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)