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Why is it important to use language that is sensitive to the target audience?

When writers use language that implies a biased or judgmental attitude, the audience may take offense and be less apt to listen to the writer’s argument. Language that is insensitive to gender, ethnicity, or disability should be avoided. Just as writers hope their audience will be willing to respect their point of view, they need to respect the diversity of a broad base of readers. Language that is inclusive and fair may contribute to the credibility of the writer and uphold the audience’s sense of dignity and self-worth.

What revisions will help to promote sensitive, fair language?

  • Use gender-inclusive language:
    • he or she instead of he
    • humankind instead of mankind
    • garbage collector instead of garbage man
    • server instead of waitress
  • Use correct or accepted racial and ethnic terms:
    • African American instead of colored or Negro
    • Asian instead of Oriental
    • American Indian or Native American instead of Indian
    • Native Alaskan or Inuit instead of Eskimo
    • Hispanic instead of Spanish
    • Latino instead of Mexican
  • Use language that respects people for who they are or recognizes a specific ailment:
    • persons with disabilities instead of handicapped, challenged, disabled, or retarded
    • visually impaired instead of blind
    • persons with hearing loss instead of deaf individuals
    • mentally ill instead of crazy, moron, or loony
    • those with arthritis instead of arthritis sufferers
    • people with diabetes instead of diabetes patients