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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Writing Guidelines

Language is ever evolving. There is no one right way to reflect the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This brief guide is not meant to be prescriptive. Instead, it is meant to help you ask probing questions about your writing and content development. You may hold varied, deeply informed, and thoughtful convictions about the words you choose to convey your thoughts and ideas. Here you will find more questions than answers because we trust you to seek out additional resources to make informed decisions.  

When you consider ways to disrupt social injustice in your work you might ask yourself, “How does my manuscript disrupt white supremacy? classism? sexism? homophobia? How does it uphold social justice?" 

Tips for Promoting Social Justice 

For more concrete guidance, here are six tips for incorporating liberatory language practices from Alex Kapitan (2021)


Be appropriately specific but never make assumptions. The goal of this tip is to avoid making blanket statements about a group of people.

  • Instead of "Latino", use "Puerto Rican", "Mexican", "Cuban", etc.
  • Instead of "Africa", use "Morocco", "Egypt", "Namibia", etc.
  • Instead of "people of color", use "Black", "Latinx", etc.
  • Instead of "people with disabilities", use "wheelchair users", "neurodivergent people", "blind and/or deaf students", etc.

Avoid euphemisms – for example, "at-risk" or "underrepresented" where "historically oppressed" or "Black youth" might be more accurate. 


Avoid dehumanizing language – for example, pathologizing language such as "suffering from", "victims", "struggling with". Despite the term "English learner" being used by the federal government, many educators prefer to focus on the strengths of students rather than deficits and instead use the term "emergent bilingual" or "multilingual learner". 


Respect self-identity language – find out what terms the people you’re writing about use and follow their lead. For example, "Latinx" vs. "Mexican American" vs. "Chican@" vs. "Hispanic". 


Practice gender-inclusive language – use singular "they, their" rather than binary "he/she", "his/her" language, as endorsed and encouraged by most style guides, including APA and CMS.  


Challenge imperialism

  • Instead of "America", use "United States"
  • Instead of "our culture", use "U.S. culture", "mainstream U.S. culture"

 Additional Tips 

Make decisions explicit

  • Explain why you capitalize “Black” but not “white”; or why you capitalize both “Black” and “White”.
  • Explain why you use "Latinx" vs "Hispanic" or "Latino".
  • Explain why you use or do not use a hyphen in (for example) "Asian American". Ask yourself how readers might interpret your choice. Did you familiarize yourself with the implications of each choice? Ensure that you are consistent with your choice throughout the entire manuscript.

If needed, submit a style guide along with your manuscript, indicating how certain words should be capitalized, italicized, hyphenated, etc., for your editors to reference during production. 


Use words carefully 

  • For example, people of color are not “diverse.” All human beings bring diversity to a given group. When writers use language implying that straight white men are the norm, they may unintentionally perpetuate the othering of people outside of that group and promote white masculine heteronormative views of the world.  


Ask yourself

  • Am I approaching the subject in a way that is actively anti-oppressive and liberatory?
  • Have I considered the subject from a variety of perspectives? 
  • Have I sought out a sensitivity reader? Have I asked someone with expertise in this area to give me feedback on perspectives I might have excluded?

The editorial staff at Corwin is always more than happy to work with you to help you in this endeavor. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions! 


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