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Writing TechniquesStyle ImprovementsUsing LGBTQ+ Inclusive Language

Using LGBTQ+ Inclusive Language

Using LGBTQ+ Inclusive Language

Making small adjustments to word choice can have a significant impact, ensuring that your entire audience knows they are recognized and valued.

ProWritingAid can help you achieve this goal by flagging terms that might need to be replaced. Take advantage of this support on such an important issue. Cultivating an attitude of inclusivity and collegiality in your workplace can raise morale, increase employee and customer loyalty, and most importantly, show that you acknowledge and respect all humans!

Be Gender Inclusive

Pronouns

Singular pronouns are gender specific: he, she, him, her, his, hers. It’s important to address your colleagues, clients, customers, and employees (or potential employees) according to their preferred gender identity, which will not always follow the male/female binary.

If you can, ask your audience or subject their preferred pronouns. If that isn’t possible, you’ve got a couple of options. One, use “they” and “them.” It is acceptable to use those terms as singular. Second, restructure your sentences so a pronoun isn’t necessary.

Instead of gender-specific pronouns as seen here,

  • Each employee is required to show his or her identification before entering the building

Use something like this:

  • Each employee must show identification before entering the building

or

  • All employees must show identification before entering the building
  • Employees are required to show their identification before entering the building

Other Gender-inclusive Language

Pronouns aren’t the only gender-specific terms you need to be mindful of. Keep your communication consistently gender-inclusive and gender-neutral.

Consider using:

  • Everyone, instead of ladies and gentlemen or men and women (you can also use colleagues, passengers, students, people, etc. depending on the context).
  • Children, instead of boys and girls
  • Person, or individual instead of man or woman
  • Partner, or spouse instead of husband or wife
  • Mx., rather than Mrs. Mr. Ms. as honorifics for those who do not identify as specifically male or female.

Use Up-to-Date LGBTQ+ Terminology

Language is ever-evolving, and the terms used to describe or reference the LGBTQ+ community have experienced that evolution. It is important to stay up-to-date with preferred terms.

Outdated/Inappropriate Current/Preferred
Homosexual Gay (gay person, gay man) Lesbian, Bisexual


*though some in the LGBTQ+ community have reclaimed the word “queer” (used historically as a pejorative), not all approve of its use.
Homosexual couple, relationship, sex Couple, relationship, sex—generally, avoid using “gay” or “lesbian” or “same-sex” to describe an activity or relationship you would not describe as “straight” in other contexts.


If the specificity is important to the communication, use “same-sex” couple or “same-sex” relationship.
Sexual preference Sexual orientation
Admitted or avoid homosexual Out; out gay man (or person); out lesbian
Gay or homosexual lifestyle Gay lives; gay and lesbian lives
Special rights Equal rights or protection
Transgendered/ “a” transgender Transgender; trans
Gender Identity Disorder Gender dysphoria
Biologically (or genetically) male or female; born male or female Assigned male/female at birth
Designated male/female at birth
Opposite sex Different sex
Hermaphrodite Intersex
Normal Herteronormative, heterosexual, person who is not gay, lesbian, bisexual (for sexual orientation)
Cisgender (for gender identity)

LGBTQ+ terminology is extensive. The terms listed above were selected for being the most likely to be used in professional communications. For more definitions and insight, visit the PFLAG Glossary.

Defamatory Language

Do not use language that denigrates the LGBTQ+ community in your communication. Such language/terminology includes:

  • slurs, mocking terms, abusive epithets
  • descriptive terms insinuating that there is something wrong with an LGBTQ+ person (i.e. deviant, disordered, perverted, etc.)
  • assertions that an LGBTQ+ identity is associated with threats to society, children, animals, and families

Final Reminders

As you prepare communications, be intentional about being inclusive and respectful. Whenever possible, ask your audience or subject their preferences. Keep yourself updated by listening to, reading the works of, and learning from the LGBTQ+ community.