The Spanish Journal of Palaeontology’s Inclusive Language Guidelines
The use of inclusive language not only recognizes diversity but also will make academic publishing more accurate and more respectful (Ashwell et al, 2023) and promotes equal opportunity.
In order to provide principles and rationale, as well as examples of preferred language, in order to equip people with knowledge to choose the most inclusive words even as terminology preferences change we include here information from the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications free guides on inclusive language, formatting and images.
Gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation
Denote a specific gender, sex, and gender identity where it is relevant (e.g., the appointment of a chairwoman was one step towards meeting legal requirements.). Otherwise use neutral terms (e.g., the chairperson) and neutralizing strategies (e.g., passive voice to eclipse the subject, plurals, “one”, etc.).
Distinguish clearly between gender, sex, and gender identity
Take care to distinguish between three interrelated terms gender, sex, and gender identity when necessary: gender denotes a primarily socio-cultural construct; sex denotes biological assignment; and gender identity primarily denotes a person’s psychological sense of their gender.
Use non-gendered terms and avoid stereotypes
Care should be taken to use gender-neutral and gender-inclusive language. In general, expressions that reinforce gender stereotypes should be avoided, as should terms that insinuate only one gender is involved in the specified task or role.
When referring to all human beings, non-gendered terms are preferred: individuals, people, and persons, or humanity, humankind or human race
When referring to all human beings in a role or occupation, non-gendered terms are preferred: firefighter, mail carrier, and homemaker.
Use of nonbinary, gender-neutral, and gender-specific language
In general, nonbinary and gender-neutral language should be used.
Some pronouns people may use include gender-specific binary terms such as “she” and “he”, as well as gender-neutral terms such as “they” and “them ”. (Note that these examples are not exhaustive. Refer to the Resources for more information.) Whereas specific pronouns and terms such as “she” and “he” may at times be appropriate, “they” and “them ” have the advantage of also including nonbinary persons.
The singular gender-neutral “they” is preferred over alternating “she/he” and “he/she” as the latter excludes people who do not use those pronouns. However, the APA notes that the usage of “he or she” and “she or he” (without slashes) may be appropriate when referring only to persons who use these pronouns.
Adjectives should be used to describe people rather than labelling them with nouns. Example: “lesbian women” or “a lesbian woman” instead of “the lesbians” or “a lesbian”.
When gender-specific nouns are required, use “man” and “woman.” Example: “transgender man” and “cisgender woman” rather than “transgender male” and “cisgender female.”
When gender-specific adjectives are required, use “male” and “female” as in “a female researcher.”
When the age range is broad and age-specific terms such as “girl” or “woman” are therefore inaccurate, “male” and “female” can be used as nouns. “Female” and “male” are also appropriate to denote a transgender person’s sex assignment at birth.
Race and ethnicity
It is important to talk about matters related to race and ethnicity using terms that the community prefers and uses to self-identify rather than defaulting to what is generally accepted by dominant power holders and structures. This may require questioning and reimagining terms that have been historically used in favor of those identified by and for specific communities. Despite common belief, a person’s race, ethnicity, or nationality cannot be determined simply by looking at them.
|a social construct that describes people with shared physical characteristics; not based on biology; not synonymous with skin color, ethnicity, or nationality
|the social identity and mutual sense of belonging that defines a group of people through common historical or family origins, beliefs, and standards of behavior (i.e., culture)
|refers to the country that a person belongs to, either by birth or naturalization
Do not mention race or ethnicity if it is not relevant. If race is mentioned, consider whether mentioning that someone is white is relevant; do not treat it as the default.
What assumptions about default characteristics are made about people within the story? Avoid portraying people as stereotypes. Consider whether the context contributes to a stereotype. Example: A Black man who is a good athlete ; a Japanese American boy who is good at math.
Avoid generalizations and vague terms. Do not use continents as descriptors as this lumps large and often diverse groups of people together. Example: “Chinese American” instead of “Asian American” ; “Nigerian” instead of “African” ; “from the United States” instead of “American.” See also: Geopolitics guideline.
Do not use umbrella terms, such as “Black, Asian, and minority ethnic” (BAME) or “people of color”, when a more precise word or phrase is appropriate. For example, do not use BAME if the group referenced is only Black Britons. Note: the Roma, Gypsy, and Irish Traveller peoples are considered minority ethnic populations in the UK, and using BAME or BME as a synonym for people of color is inaccurate.
Be respectful. Do not use pejorative or derogatory terms, and do not use dehumanizing or fetishizing language. In particular, do not use food words to describe the color of someone’s skin or appearance. Example: caramel, cocoa, chocolate. The same goes for comparing people to animals.
The following definitions may be useful but should not be considered comprehensive. See the Resources for more information.
|In Australia: Legally, someone who is a descendant of an Aboriginal inhabitant of Australia, sees himself or herself as an Aboriginal person and is recognized as Aboriginal by members of the community in which he or she lives or has lived (ALRC 2003); a broad term that groups nations and custodians of mainland Australia and most of the islands, including Tasmania, Fraser Island, Palm Island, Mornington Island, Groote Eylandt, Bathurst, and Melville Islands.In Canada: An umbrella term that refers to First Nations, Métis, and the Inuit in Canada. “Indigenous” is somewhat preferred but specifics are better.
|People in the United States who share a lineage that can be traced directly or indirectly to Africa. Can be but is not always synonymous with Black. It’s best to ask.
|An umbrella term that includes Inupiat and Yupik, Alaskan Indians (Athabascan, Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian), and Aleut. They are culturally distinct and most prefer to be called “Alaska Native” instead of being grouped as American Indian (Diversity Style Guide).
|American Indian; Native American
|Both are generally acceptable and can be used interchangeably. “Native American” gained traction in the 1960s for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Over time, “Native American” has been expanded to include all Native people of the continental United States and some in Alaska. “Native American” is used only to describe groups of Native Americans— two or more individuals of different tribal affiliation. Identify people by their preferred tribal affiliation.
|Asian Pacific Islander
|Refers to both Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It’s best to be specific about what communities are being referenced (Guide to Covering Asian Pacific America).
|Combination of two (or more) races. It’s best to ask how someone identifies as not all biracial or multiracial people use these terms. Do not use “mixed” as an alternative.
|Black people of African descent who are scattered throughout the world; refers to Black people whose ancestors were removed from the African continent through slavery and colonization and dispersed worldwide.
|Aboriginal peoples of Canada who are ethnically neither Métis nor Inuit.
|Romani Gypsy and Irish Traveller are distinct ethnic groups under UK race relations legislation. Both terms should be capitalized when referring to the peoples. Do not use as a general term meaning “wanderer.”Note: Some Roma people find the term “Gypsy” offensive. Whenever possible, ask what term is preferred (PIRC; Guardian).
|A person who is of Polynesian descent. Do not use to refer to someone living in Hawaii.
|Refers to persons of Spanish-speaking origin or ancestry
|A person with ancestral ties to India. Use “Indian American” to refer to a U.S. permanent resident or citizen with ancestral ties to India. Do not confuse with “American Indian”. Do not use to refer to Indigenous peoples of the United States.
|“While an official definition of ‘Indigenous’ is not agreed on, the United Nations has developed an understanding of the term based on self-identification, historical continuity to pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies, links to territories and resources, distinct social, economic and political systems and possession of distinct languages, cultures and beliefs. In the case of the United States, tribal membership or citizenship denotes Indigenous identity. These factors make the words Indigenous and Aboriginal identities, not adjectives, and NAJA urges outlets to capitalize these terms in order to avoid confusion between indigenous plants and animals and Indigenous human beings. Finally, avoid referring to Indigenous people as possessions of states or countries. Instead of Wyoming’s Indigenous people, say the Indigenous people of Wyoming ” (Diversity Style Guide).
|refers to anyone of Latin American origin or ancestry
|r eserve; reservation
|Land, either ancestral land or land Native nations were forcibly removed to. Note that these are not the same as a Native nation’s name (Native Governance Center)
|identify Indigenous people by their specific tribes, nations, or communities whenever possible. Ask what the preferred term is.
|Use with caution. Better to use “nation” or specify the ethnic group unless “tribe” is the preferred term.Within the United States, many Native Americans prefer the term “nation” because their people have signed treaties with the United States that recognize them as nations. Some Native Americans prefer their national affiliation instead of using the generic term Native American, e.g., Navajo, Hopi, Cherokee.Avoid referring to different ethnic groups as tribes. For example, Hutu and Tutsi are ethnic groups, not tribes.
Terms to avoid or use with caution:
|black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME); black and minority ethnic (BME)
|Name the specific groups instead. Previously used in the UK until 2021.
|Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)
|Being specific is preferred. “People of color” may be acceptable; do not use POC.
|Being specific is preferred. “People of color” may be acceptable; do not use POC.
|Do not use as this is a stereotype and is considered offensive.
|Avoid using to describe people. Be specific whenever possible. Not synonymous with people of color.
|Pejorative. Do not use.Note: I n some African countries, “colored” denotes those of mixed racial ancestry and is acceptable.
|Avoid or be specific as to its meaning. Often exclusionary as it usually refers to white skin.
|Outdated term for a person with one white parent and one black parent. Avoid as it is considered insensitive. Biracial or multiracial may be appropriate.
|Should only be used as an adjective, not a noun.
|Avoid. Be specific instead.
|Pejorative; do not use to refer to people. May be acceptable in certain uses (e.g., oriental rugs).
|main/secondary; primary/secondary; leading/alternative; source/replica.
|b locklist/allowlist; exclude list/include list; avoid list/prefer list
|Do not use to mean w hite.
|Acceptable only if referring to the title of a specific American Indian event. Avoid if referring to a general gathering.
|Avoid. These terms can be seen as marginalizing and offensive as they are often used to denote things from countries outside North America and Western Europe. Name the specific country or culture the item being described comes from.
|“A member of the Indigenous people who have traditionally inhabited Alaska and other Arctic regions, including eastern Siberia in Russia, Canada and Greenland.” Some consider the term pejorative, and it should be used with caution.
|Be specific. Multiracial is also acceptable.
|Derogatory. Do not use.
First, consider how the narrative is framed. The FrameWorks Institute defines framing as “the choices we make in what we say and how we say it,” including “what we emphasize, how and what we explain, [and] what we leave unsaid.”
Who is telling the story? From what perspective is the situation viewed? It is easy for authors to write from their own perspective, an ethnocentric point of view, simply because this is how they naturally see the world. Other times, the point of view is that of whatever group is considered “default” or has power in society. One example of this is Eurocentrism, or Western bias.
|the attitude that one’s own group, ethnicity, or nationality is superior to others
|the tendency to interpret the world in terms of European or Anglo-American values and experiences
It is common for the default point of view to be centered on so-called Western countries, like the US, UK, and other predominantly white, higher- income countries.
References and resources
Ashwell, S.J. et al., 2023. Three recommended inclusive language guidelines for scholarly publishing: Words matter. Learned Publishing 36(1): 94-99. https://doi.org/10.1002/leap.1527
The Guidelines are freely available on PubPub at https://c4disc.pubpub.org/guidelines-on-inclusive-language-and-images-in-scholarly-communication.
Editorial Board of the Spanish Journal of Palaeontology