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Inclusive Language Guide

Northwestern University is committed to academic excellence, innovative research and the personal and professional growth of its students in a diverse, inclusive and supportive learning environment. The foundation of this pursuit is made possible by the students, faculty and staff who are the heart of the University. A mutual and respectful exchange of unique ideas, experiences and perspectives sustains the depth of our learning across campus.

This guide serves as a resource for all members of the Northwestern community, especially those in roles of University communicators. Its goal is to encourage educated choices on the use of language that is inclusive and free of bias. Our language —whether written, spoken or visual —should  be historically accurate, relevant, empowering and respectful.

Overall Guidance

  • Because sensitivities regarding language vary, it is important to ask people about their identity marker preferences. Do not assume that one individual represents all members of a particular group or community. Keep in mind that some terminology is regional or generational.
  • Always emphasize the person, not specific traits. Avoid referring to someone’s race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age unless the information is relevant to the story.

Our Approach

Staff and faculty across the University have contributed to the creation of this guide, which is a living document. As society and language evolve, this guide will continue to be revisited and revised. It is an opportunity for our community to continue to learn together and commit to the practice of using respectful and welcoming language.

All users are encouraged to offer new perspectives and encouraged to ask questions, offer suggestions and note omissions.

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Key Resources