Equal Rights Center
We’ve been advancing civil rights for more than 30 years. Help us protect them for the future. Find out how >>

Skip to Content En Español | Translate
Adjust font size: AA

Language Etiquette

The words we choose to use have a huge impact on the story we are telling.  Word choice can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and strengthen outdated attitudes, or it can convey respect for individuals and encourage progressive thinking.  By following the below guidelines, you will demonstrate a commitment to respecting the diversity of all individuals.

The ERC promotes using the following language and terminology:

 

 

When discussing the immigrant community

    Use

Don't Use

Documented
Undocumented
Immigrant
The limited English proficiency (LEP) community
A person with limited English proficiency

Legal
Illegal
Alien         

 

 

 

When discussing the disability community

Always use Person First Language

  • A person who has a mental health disability    

  • A person with epilepsy
        
  • He is a person with an intellectual disability
       
  • “Mary is a person with autism.”

    Use

Don't Use

The disability community
Blind, or visual disability
Deaf, or hard of hearing
Intellectual disability
Mental health disability
Non visible disability
Person who uses a wheelchair
Person with a disability
Someone of short stature
Service animal                                            

Crazy
Cripple
Dwarf or midget
Handicap
Physically challenged
Retard, or retarded
Suffers from (an illness or disability)
The disabled
Wheelchair-bound
Birth defect
Victim                                                        

 

 

When discussing the LGBT community

    Use

Don't Use

LGBT
Gay
Lesbian
Bisexual
Transgender
  • Always refer to the person in the gender he/she currently identies as.   
Straight
Gender Identity
Sexual Orientation
Partner/ Husband/ Wife
Family
Marriage Equality
Civil Union
Commitment Ceremony
Domestic Partner
Transvestite
Transsexual
Cross-dresser
Queer
Drag
Dyke
Tranny
Gay Family
Homo
Lifestyle
Sexual Preference
Gay Marriage
Special Rights
Openly gay
  • Only use where individual’s orientation is germane; “Harvery Milk was the first openly gay…”
Same-sex marriage

 

 

When discussing domestic violence

Use gender neutral terms, or include both genders.

    Use

Don't Use

Survivor                           
Survivor of domestic violence    

 

 

Victim
Avoid words with violent meanings:

  •  “I’ll take a stab at it.”
  •  "He's taking a shot at it"                   

 

 

Powered By Convio
Built by Firefly Partners Firefly Logo