About Conscious Style Guide

Welcome to Conscious Style Guide, the first website devoted to conscious language. Our mission is to help writers and editors think critically about using language—including words, portrayals, framing, and representation—to empower instead of limit. In one place, you can access style guides covering terminology for various communities and find links to key articles debating usage. We study words so that they can become tools instead of unwitting weapons.

The idea behind Conscious Style Guide unfolded in 2011. Karen Yin, the writer/editor behind AP vs. Chicago and the Editors of Color Database, wanted to feature work on kind, compassionate, mindful, empowering, respectful, and inclusive language in one place. Many of us seek terminology that is more accurate, logical, and reasonable but don’t have the time or the will to comb through the Internet. Though many marginalized communities have created media guides, locating them was challenging—and once you found one, it might not present opposing perspectives. Conscious Style Guide helps you construct and polish your rationale to make educated choices. The point is to peel back the layers and invite you into the discussion. Increasing access meant increasing awareness; increasing awareness meant increasing use.

Because we believe that content and context work together, we avoid a one-word-fits-all approach. Instead, we encourage you to immerse yourself in these ongoing conversations about language so you can come to your own conclusion about what is more effective for you and your audience.

One of Poynter’s top tools for journalists in 2018Conscious Style Guide is also recommended by NASA, BuzzFeed, The Chicago Manual of Style Online, Copyediting, ACES: The Society for Editing, Mailchimp, Zapier, and 18F, a government agency. 

Conscious language is tipping because we are pushing.

What Is Conscious Language, Anyway?

Conscious language is the art of using words effectively in a specific context. Who is your audience? What tone and level of formality do you want? What are you trying to achieve? Some words are more apt than others.

The most important part of conscious language is the conscious part—our intention. Good writers consciously use disagreeable language to strike a dissonant tone. The goal is not to be inoffensive or politically correct (whatever that means), because even language intended to be inclusive and considerate can be received the wrong way. If you’re interested in conscious language, then clarify your intention and evoke and provoke skillfully.

As with life, have fun with language.

Karen Yin

Karen Yin

Founder, Conscious Style Guide

Winner of the 2017 Robinson Prize for furthering the craft of professional editing, Karen Yin is the creator of AP vs. Chicago, a guide for anyone who gives “a dollar sign, ampersand, exclamation point, and pound sign about style,” Conscious Style Guide, a reference site for inclusive, compassionate, and empowering language, and Editors of Color, tools for diversifying your staff and sources. For more information, visit karenyin.com.

Meet Our Advisory Council

Steve Bien-Aimé

Steve Bien-Aimé

Assistant professor of journalism at Northern Kentucky University

Steve Bien-Aimé, PhD, is an assistant professor of journalism at Northern Kentucky University. Prior to receiving his doctorate from the College of Communications at Penn State, Bien-Aimé worked as a copy editor at The News Journal in Delaware and The Baltimore Sun and served in a variety of functions at FOXSports.com in Los Angeles, departing as deputy NFL editor. His research interests include race and gender portrayals in news and sports media.

Henry Fuhrmann

Henry Fuhrmann

Adjunct instructor, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Henry Fuhrmann, an adjunct instructor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, worked at the Los Angeles Times from 1990 to 2015. Before retiring as an assistant managing editor, he led the print and digital copy desks, chaired the standards and practices committee, and oversaw the editorial stylebook. He is a longtime local leader of the Asian American Journalists Association and serves as a member of the executive board of ACES: The Society for Editing.

Alice Y. Hom

Alice Y. Hom

Director of Equity and Social Justice, Northern California Grantmakers

Alice Y. Hom, PhD, is a community builder invested in bridging diverse and overlapping communities for social change. As the director of Equity and Social Justice for Northern California Grantmakers, Alice focuses on racial equity with an intersectional lens. Before joining NCG, Alice created a podcast and a digital archive on activism by LGBTQ people of color as a Soros Equality Fellow, and prior to that, she was the director of the Queer Justice Fund at Asian Americans / Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy. She is the co-editor of award-winning anthology Q&A: Queer in Asian America and has published articles in various journals and anthologies. She holds a PhD in history from Claremont Graduate University, an MA in Asian American Studies from UCLA, and a BA from Yale University. Alice also serves on the boards of California Humanities and Borealis Philanthropy.

Steve Kleinedler

Steve Kleinedler

Lexicographer, "Fiat Lex" podcast co-host, and author of "Is English Changing?"

Steve Kleinedler, the author of the introductory linguistics textbook Is English Changing?, has worked as an editor and a lexicographer since 1989. For 21 years, he was on the editorial staff of the American Heritage Dictionary (including nearly 7 years as executive editor) and served as president of the Dictionary Society of North American from 2017 to 2019. Currently, Steve is a technical editor for a software company in the greater Boston area and is one half of the podcast duo Fiat Lex. Steve received his BA in linguistics from Northwestern University and was a graduate student in linguistics at the University of Chicago when he left ABD to take a position at the AHD. Steve is a founding member of Shattered Globe Theatre Company in Chicago and has taught, directed, and performed improv at ImprovBoston and Philly Improv Theater for over 16 years. Steve lives in suburban Boston with his cat, Steve the Cat.
Christine Ma

Christine Ma

Freelance editor

Christine Ma is a copyeditor and proofreader specializing in children’s and young adult books. Prior to starting her own freelance business, she was an in-house copyeditor or senior production editor at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Weekly Reader, which published educational magazines for children. Among the books Christine copyedited are three Caldecott Medal winners, a National Book Award finalist, a Printz Honor Book, a Sibert Honor Book, a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book, and numerous New York Times bestsellers. She is also on the Executive Board of ACES: The Society for Editing.

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