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MLA Writing Style

Inclusive Language Guildlines

Inclusive language is the use of language in such a way that individuals and group identities are treated with sensitivity, inclusivity, and the avoidance of bias. Here are some principles to think about when writing--academically or informally--to ensure inclusivity in your work. 

Make references to identity relevant: Instances of mentioning a subject's ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, etc. must  be used in a meaningful way contextually, not just for its own sake. Using gender-neutral terms is a good way to ensure inclusive language.               

 Ex.:  humankind, Latinx

Precision in writing: In order to not stereotype in your writing, make sure that you use specifics and not generalizations when relating information about a person or group of people.

      Ex.: Instead of writing Jews believe... write A Jewish belief is...

Using terms of identity that are respectful: Do not use language that defines a person by a single aspect of their identity, i.e. a diabetic , but instead with people-first, or identity-first language.

      Ex.: person who is disabled.

Be thoughtful about styling and capitalization: Only capitalize words if they derive from proper nouns. If both capitalized and lowercase versions are used, choose one version and be consistent with its use. Do not use quotation marks or italicization to define identity, gender, or chosen name or pronoun(s).

Guidance on minimizing exclusionary pronouns: When trying to be as inclusive as possible, it is easy for writers to want to use all of the he/her, she/him pronouns in their work. A more concise way to be inclusive is to use non-gender specific pronouns (they/theirs) or rephrase the sentence in order to not use pronouns at all, and use a 'general' subject. 

     Ex.: I am impressed by the résumé of T. C. Blake, a candidate for the web developer job, and will schedule an interview with them. 

Avoid using language that makes assumptions about the audience: Think about not using the pronouns 'we/ours' in order to avoid the  assumption that the reader shares authorial background, identity, geographic location, culture, or belief system. Also, when writing about disabled peoples or people who have lived through trauma, don't use phrases like suffers from, afflicted with, or victim of, unless the context absolutely calls for it; using terms like those can lead the reader to make assumptions about the person's experience.

      Ex.: People who use wheelchairs should not be referred to as wheelchair-bound, or confined to a wheelchair

In order to make sure that you are using terms correctly, consult a recent dictionary; it will let you know if a word is deemed offensive or is outdated. It may also give an alternate, more respectful word to use.

      Ex.: If a historical document refers to a person as a 'gypsy', the more respectful words to use are Roma or Romani

If you are using a source that does include offensive words/terms, make sure that you make a note or use in-text citation of the source, so the audience knows this is someone else's words/thoughts and not your own. If you do not want to use the actual offensive/outdated term in your writing--even from a quoted source--you can use a dash after the first letter in order to not reproduce it fully. 

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