Diversity is not an abstract concept at UC Riverside. Widely recognized as one of the most diverse research universities in the U.S., our diversity is a source of strength and pride for our students, alumni, faculty, and staff. We are committed to creating a campus climate of mutual respect, understanding, and inclusion. 

That work includes our language. As our primary tool of expression and communication, words — and the way we use them — are powerful. Used thoughtfully, words reflect and respect the lived experience of the people and communities we serve. They lift people up and they build trust. Used carelessly, words may perpetuate stereotypes. They can also feel disrespectful and even cause harm.

UCR’s Inclusive Style Guide is a living document compiled by UCR’s University Relations team to help you incorporate welcoming language into your daily communications. We have used many reference materials, including inclusive style guides at other major universities, in the creation of this document. 

A few things to note:

With rare exceptions, University Relations uses the Associated Press rules to help achieve consistency in its communications. Our recommendation is that university communicators follow AP Stylebook guidelines wherever possible, while also recognizing and respecting people as individuals. To that end, with respect to the text and examples in this document:

  • Some are drawn directly from the AP Stylebook;
  • Some suggest flexibility to honor individuals and communities;
  • Some simply offer things to think about or pitfalls to avoid.

In the manner of style guides including the Associated Press Style Guide, this document is intended to be utilitarian, and provides little exposition. Links are provided where appropriate to outside sources, many of which were used in creating this document. 

This guide is a companion not only to the Associated Press Stylebook, but also to the UC Riverside Stylebook, which provides the style notes for building names and campus entities, academic titles, and campus variances from AP Style, among other things.  

Lastly, although broad, it is not feasible to include every term, word, or scenario in this guide. We also recognize that language and culture are fluid and shift over time. Please check back regularly for updated guidance. For questions, contact Sarah Nightingale at or Jessica Weber at

General Guidelines

Collaborate: Involve a diverse group of people/perspectives in the creative and storytelling process.

Be specific: Using broad terms and labels for a large, diverse group ignores differences between individuals within that group.

Ask how people want to be described.

Keep unconscious bias in check: Be aware of your cultural norms and make sure you don’t unintentionally mis-characterize or exclude people who don’t share the same background.

Gender and Sexual Identity

Terms to know:

For frequently used terms and definitions, please refer to the UC Riverside Stylebook (pages 21-22).

Specific recommendations:
  • Sex and gender are often used interchangeably, but they should not be considered synonyms. Gender refers to a person’s identity and how they express themselves. For example, people may identify as transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, gender fluid, or agender.
  • Understand pronouns
    • Always use the pronouns (e.g., he/him/his and they/them/their) a person uses for themselves as a way of accurately describing and representing them. 
  • Use gender-neutral language
    • Use the gender-neutral term “they” to replace the binary “he/she.” For example, “the student should be advised how much time they will have for the assignment.”
    • Use gender-neutral language when possible. “Siblings” instead of “brothers and sisters”; “people” instead of “men and women.” 
    • Avoid using “opposite gender.” Instead use “different gender.”
    • Avoid titles and terms referring to “man” or “men.” For example, replace spokesman with spokesperson or mailman with mail carrier. Consider using “first-year student” instead of “freshman.” Use humankind rather than mankind.
  • Appropriately identify individuals and groups
    • Be specific. Use LGBTQ to refer to a group of people who are not straight, are not cisgender, or are questioning their sexuality or gender. For individuals, name the specific group, such as gay or lesbian. 
    • Used in the past as a slur, the word “queer” is now an umbrella term for LGBTQ and is frequently used in academic, activist, nonprofit, and journalism circles. In light of its origins, be mindful of using queer outside of a quote or formal name.
  • Use positive and affirming language
    • “Pronouns” instead of “preferred pronouns.”
    • “Sexual orientation” instead of “sexual preference.”
    • “Gender-affirming surgery” instead of “sex change surgery.”
    • “Not out” instead of “closeted.”
    • “Gay” or “lesbian” instead of “homosexual.”
  • Do not identify a person’s gender identity unless it is relevant to the story. If you identify it, ensure the focus is on the person’s career or achievements. 
  • UC policy is designed to ensure that all individuals are identified by their lived or preferred name on university-issued documents. Always used an individual’s lived name, even if it’s different than their legal name. 

For additional guidance, refer to the AP Stylebook entries on pronouns and gender, sex and sexual orientation.

UCR resources:

LGBT Resource Center
UC Gender Recognition and Lived Name Policy


Race, Ethnicity, and Indigenous Peoples

Terms to know:

Latino, Latina, Latinx, Latine: A person from, or whose ancestors were from, Latin America. This includes Brazil and excludes Spain. Latina is the feminine form. Latinx and Latine are gender-neutral terms for Latino. There is disagreement over the use of Latinx. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll, only 3% of Hispanic people use Latinx, and some people question its appropriateness in a gendered language like Spanish. Others see Latinx as a gender- and LGBTQ-inclusive term.

Hispanic: A person from — or whose ancestors were from — a Spanish-speaking land or culture. This means Spain is included, but Brazil is not because Brazilians speak Portuguese. 

Chicano: A term that Mexican Americans in the U.S. Southwest sometimes use to describe their heritage. 

Specific recommendations:
  • Do not identify a person’s race or ethnicity unless it is relevant to the story. If you do identify it, ensure the focus is on the person’s career or achievements. 
  • Appropriately identify individuals or groups
    • If you are including a person’s race or ethnicity in your communications, ask the person how they self-identify. 
    • Do not hyphenate racial identities like African American, Mexican American, Asian American.
    • Capitalize “Black.” Do not capitalize white.
    • Use caution when using the descriptor BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). Some people and groups have embraced this descriptor, while others feel alienated or unacknowledged by it. When it is necessary to use the initialization, spell out on first reference then offer the initialization, per AP Style. Ex.: Black, Indigenous and People of Color, or BIPOC. 
    • If your source prefers gender-neutral terms, such as Latinx, Latine, or Chicanx, you may follow their preference. Otherwise use Latino or Chicano to refer to mixed-gender groups.
    • Rather than referring to an individual as “Hispanic,” consider a more specific identification such as Cuban, Puerto Rican or Mexican American.
    • Capitalize “Indigenous” when referring to a specific person or group but leave lowercase for generic uses, e.g., “indigenous plants.”
    • Capitalize “Native” when referring to a specific person or group but leave lowercase for generic uses, e.g., “she is native to the region.”
    • Rather than referring to an individual as Native American or a group as a Native group, consider being more specific. “She is a member of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe.”
    • Include any accents or diacritics in the person’s name—they often guide pronunciation. Learn how to insert them.
  • Avoid stereotypes and unconscious bias
    • Do not use the word “diverse” as a synonym for nonwhite individuals.
    • Avoid using “minority” or “minorities” when describing nonwhite communities. Accurate phrases depend on the context, but could include “underrepresented,” “people of color,” “communities of color,” “marginalized communities,” “underprivileged,” or “minoritized.”
    • Do not use the word “discovery” when describing the encounter of Native lands.
  • Avoid culturally appropriative words and phrases
    • Do not use “pow wow” to mean hold a meeting or “guru” to talk about an expert in their field.
    • Do not use the words “savage” or “uncivilized” to describe Native peoples. 
  • Use positive and affirming language
    • “Asian” instead of “oriental.”
    • “Black” instead of “colored.”

For additional guidance, refer to the AP Stylebook entry on race-related coverage.

UCR resources:

UCR Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


Nationality and Citizenship Status

Legal demands of immigrants are constantly changing, so depending on when and where a person migrated, an individual’s legal immigration status can be nuanced. Familiarize yourself with the acceptable terms to describe a person’s citizenship and immigration status and those to avoid, according to the AP Stylebook’s sections on immigration, and citizen, national and native.

Terms to know:

Undocumented people: People who are engaged in the asylum, DACA, etc., process but it is not complete to the point of obtaining immigration documentation.

Specific recommendations:
  • Do not identify a person’s nationality or citizenship status unless it is relevant to the story. If you identify it, ensure the focus is on the person’s career or achievements. 
  • Make sure the person knows their immigration status or nationality will be made public and ask for their explicit permission. This is especially important if the person (or a family member) is undocumented.
  • Avoid stereotypes and unconscious bias
    • Do not assume that everyone who qualifies for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is from Mexico, Central or South America.
    • Be aware that not all undocumented students have DACA status. 
  • Use positive and affirming language
    • “Undocumented immigrant” or “undocumented” instead of “illegal” or “illegal immigrant.” 
    • “Undocumented worker” instead of “illegal worker.”

For additional guidance, refer to the AP Stylebook entry on immigration/migration.

UCR resources:

Undocumented Student Programs


People with Disabilities 

When it comes to talking about disabilities, using inclusive language helps to create a more accessible and welcoming environment for all individuals. 

As noted by AP Stylebook, the terms “disabilities” and “disabled” include a broad range of physical, psychological, developmental and intellectual conditions, both visible and invisible.

Two types of language can be used when writing about someone with a disability. The first is person-first language, which put the person before the disability. For example, “a person with a disability” not “a disabled person.” The second is identity-first language, which means positioning the disability first and recognizes the disability as a primary part of their identity and lived experience. Either approach may be appropriate depending on the context and the person’s preference. 

Terms to know: 

Refer to National Center on Disability and Journalism

Specific recommendations:
  • Do not identify a person’s disability status unless it is relevant to the story. If you identify it, ensure the focus is on the person’s career or achievements. 
  • Ensure a person is aware of how much information you intend to share and that they grant permission and have buy-in on how their disability is framed.
  • Identify individuals and groups
    • Ask the person their preference as it relates to having a disability in general and their specific disability. For example, some people may use both person-first and identity-first language depending on the context. For example, “person with a disability” and also “Autistic person.” 
  • Do not use terms like suffers from/stricken by/afflicted by/confined to. He has Parkinson’s disease. She uses a wheelchair.
  • Do not refer to people with disabilities as “patients” unless they are being discussed in terms of a healthcare setting. 
  • Avoid words and phrases such as “blind spot”; “tone deaf”; “that’s lame”; “crazy”; “stupid/dumb.” 
  • Use positive and affirming language:
    • “Accessible parking” instead of “handicap parking.”
    • “Neurodiverse” instead of “on the spectrum.”

For more guidance, refer to the AP Stylebook entry on disabilities.

UCR resources:

Student Disability Resource Center
Disability Network


People Impacted by the Carceral System 

Terms to know:

Incarcerated Person: Anyone currently incarcerated. It makes no claim about guilt or innocence (contrary to words like “convict”), nor does it attach a permanent identity to an often temporary status.

Formerly Incarcerated Person: Anyone who has been in a carceral setting and is now released. Prison, immigration detention centers, local jails, juvenile detention centers, etc., are included under this umbrella term. Attaching the prefix ex- to anything (ex-convict, ex-felon, etc.) is a clear indication that it, and the root word itself, are unacceptable.

System Impacted includes those who have been incarcerated, those with arrests/convictions but no incarceration, and those who have been directly impacted by a loved one being incarcerated. May include partners, parents, children and/or siblings.

Consider “Carceral System” in lieu of “Criminal Justice System.” Carceral System includes formal institutions such as law enforcement and the courts, and may be expanded to include those who manifest and/or financially benefit from prison labor.

Specific recommendations:
  • People convicted of (Drug Violations/Violent Offenses/etc.) Avoid “violent offenders”, “drug offenders” etc. It is rarely necessary to specify the type of crime an incarcerated or formerly incarcerated person was convicted of, however, and when doing so, it should be phrased in line with this guidance.
  • Avoid use of the term “gang member,” unless the person self-identifies as such.
  • Consider “person on parole/probation” instead of “parolee” or “probationer.” Be mindful to preserve the privacy of those who may be on probation or parole. 
  • “Communities that experience high rates of violence” is preferable to “violent communities” and “bad/disadvantaged neighborhoods.” 
  • “Drug/substance use” instead of “drug abuse.” 
UCR resources:

Underground Scholars Initiative


Additional Resources

Associated Press Style AP Stylebook’s chapter on Inclusive Storytelling

The Diversity Style Guide is a resource to help media professionals cover a complex, multicultural world with accuracy, authority, and sensitivity. Look to this guide for direction on more than 700 terms that can be sorted by letter or category.

NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists’ Stylebook on LGBTQ Terminology is intended to complement the AP Stylebook. 

NPR’s Guide To Gender Identity Terms is a glossary of terms relating to gender identity with the goal of helping people communicate accurately and respectfully with one another.

The Trans Journalists Association’s Style Guide is a tool reporters, editors, and other media makers can use to improve trans coverage.

Resources from the Native American Journalists Association include a guide on terminology and an explainer on the complexities of Indigenous nations.

Sapiens House Style Guide from the anthropological and cultural magazine Sapiens incorporates and adapts guidance from Elements of Indigenous Style, the Conscious Style Guide, and the National Association of Black Journalist’s style, among others.

The National Center on Disability and Journalism recommends the Disability Language Style Guide, developed at the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The Religion Stylebook is an easy-to-use guide created for journalists by the Religion Newswriters Association.