Writing with respect is a crucial component of writing with awareness. By demonstrating to your readers that you strive to be aware and respectful of their various identities and experiences, you make your writing more inclusive and inviting—and make it more likely that your audience will engage with your ideas.
Here are some tips for avoiding disrespectful language in your writing:
- Write with specificity.
Don't make generalizations about groups of people. No individual represents an entire group, and individuals cannot be wholly defined by the groups they are in.
- Write with attention and the desire to keep learning.
Don't intentionally write harmful, bigoted, or ignorant statements about people or groups of people. If you're unsure of whether or not what you're writing is harmful, do some research or ask people who have a greater knowledge of the group in question, preferably someone within that group.
- Write with equity.
Don't make marginalization central to your discussion of marginalized individuals or groups, unless marginalization is the topic at hand. For instance, a woman of color can be a scientist—just as someone with a less culturally marked identity can be. When you write about a woman of color who is a scientist, unless the focus of your writing is how her identity has impacted her professional life, concentrate on the science she does.
- Use inclusive, people-first language as much as possible.
Emphasize the person, rather than one aspect of the person's identity. We all could be described in many ways, and calling a person “a ,” emphasizes the one trait, rather than that trait as one of many that could be used to describe that person. For instance, saying “She is an asthmatic” emphasizes her disability, while “She is a person who has asthma,” emphasizes that she is a person first—a person who may also be a parent, a teacher, and a person with any number of other significant identities.