Make Peace With Words

Meditation books, glasses, and a T-shirt with a "Make Peace With Words" hand-lettered design on a wooden trunk.

Like fire, words have the power to warm or burn. And like fire, words can cause a great deal of damage regardless of intention. Much of the terminology I question these days falls in the “unintentional harm” category. This is good news: Up until college, it would have been the “intentional harm” category that dominated. Slurs, insults, mean jokes, unwelcome labels, and hate speech came from principals, counselors, and teachers as well as students. It took me years to make peace with words that had been used as grenades.

When I gained some distance from these experiences, I realized that some of those words were neutral in nature but had been said to me or around me with such hostility that I wasn’t able to separate the words from the ugliness of the intention.  Read more

In other news:
  • New T-shirt Design: We debuted our new hand-lettered “Make Peace With Words” T-shirt design (pictured above) this week at the 2016 EFA National Conference. Today (September 1, 2016) is the last day to use the ILOVEEFA code to receive $9 off any T-shirt. Your support will help CSG and Uni-T, an artisan-friendly shop that prints its soft shirts by hand.
  • CSG on LinkedIn: Have you joined us yet? We’ve set up a page for Conscious Style Guide on LinkedIn so that it’s easier for you to catch up on conscious-language news. Follow us!
  • New Master Class: One of our favorite editors, Samantha Enslen, will be teaching a Master Class on “Editing for Readability” for Copyediting on October 26, 2016. Get ready to learn about the basic principles of readability, creating copy that is easy to understand, and some plain-language guidelines.

Peace to you and yours,

Karen Yin

Best Practices for Journalists Reporting on Police Killings of Black and Brown People | Race Forward

One of journalism’s core values is to “minimize harm to the communities and people they cover… Reporters should make intentional efforts to craft stories that uplift the voices of the most impacted without criminalizing them or adding to existing narratives. This is always important, but must become a priority in times of crisis and unrest.”

Sorry, Sweetie: American Bar Association Bans Sexist Language in Court | 

A new ABA ethics rule will “allow fines and even suspensions for attorneys who knowingly use derogatory or demeaning language while practicing law, which applies in the courtroom, but also while participating in social activities and even in law firms. It also bans words that discriminate on the base of things like religions and race.”

How to Talk About Female Olympians Without Being a Regressive Creep—a Handy Guide | The Guardian

“So, as a public service, here is a handy guide for how to talk and/or write about female Olympians without being a regressive creep who is constantly getting yelled at by feminists on the internet.”

Can’t Quit Saying “Um” and “Ah”? Just Learn How to Use Them Better | Quartz

“Not only might filler words be inevitable, it’s possible they’re actually a useful part of our linguistic evolution. In fact, they might even be beneficial, at least according to some of the science.”

7 Things to Talk to Little Girls About Other Than Them Being Cute | BuzzFeed

“Do you like books? What’s your favorite?” and six more conversation starters that don’t focus on a little girl’s appearance.

9 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Get People to Respond to Your Email | Fast Company

Emails written at a third-grade reading level with simpler words and fewer words per sentence were considered optimal.

Why This Magazine Is Ditching the “Body Shaming” Language | Los Angeles Times 

“It was reader feedback that prompted [Women’s Health Editor in Chief Amy Keller Laird] to drop such phrases as ‘bikini body’ and the ‘drop two sizes’ type of language from its cover.”

Why I Don’t Call Other Black People the “N” Word | The Huffington Post

“We have given the word a positive spin that is received as a form of bonding and sentiment, however, I still wonder if we should be using the word in any connotation.”

Three Questions to Ask Instead of Saying “Nice Job” | Fast Company

“Saying ‘Great!’ doesn’t tell the person what they did or why it worked. Yet, when we criticize someone, we get very specific about what they’re doing wrong. Why not take the same approach with giving praise?”

The Problem With Callout Culture | The Walrus

“A true community—offline or online—is a group of people who take care of each other, who feel responsible for the well­being of others within the group. A true community works together for both the good of the individual and the good of the group as a whole.”

It’s Time to Stop Referring to People 50 and Over as “Seniors” | The Huffington Post

“Ageism in America is rampant. The term ‘senior’ evokes widespread negative images, and maligning or making fun of the frailties associated with getting older is still considered politically acceptable.”

Stop Dismissing Everything You Disagree With as “Politically Correct” | Task & Purpose

Writing from the perspective of military culture, Carl Forsling laments that “rather than enumerate talking points, root causes, or data, one can just whip out the trope of ‘political correctness’ and end the argument.”

Beyond “PoC” and “BAME”: The Terminology We Use to Define Ourselves | Media Diversified

Ten writers from different backgrounds, all living in the UK, give their thoughts on “terms and classifications used to describe traditionally marginalised people.”

Afro-Mexican: New Category Recognizes Black Mexicans in Census… Yup They Exist | The GED Section

“A recent survey estimated 1.4 million Mexicans identify as ‘Afro-Mexican’ or ‘Afro-descendant’… This will be the first time they are able to identify themselves as such in the census.”

A Gender-Neutral Honorific | Merriam-Webster

“The gender-neutral ‘Mx.’ is used as a title for those who do not identify as being of a particular gender, or for people who simply don’t want to be identified by gender.”

Baseball Campaign Puts the Accent on Spanish Names | The New York Times

It’s an “effort to recognize the influence of the game’s Latino contingent by putting accent marks on the names on players’ jerseys.”

The Linguistic Turf Wars Over the Singular “They” | Atlas Obscura

“If the English language did permanently embrace a singular gender-neutral pronoun, it would be far from alone—254 of the 378 languages tracked by the World Atlas of Language Structures Online don’t specify for gender at all with their pronouns.”

Here’s the Real Origin of the Word “Yas” | The Huffington Post

“The drag and ballroom culture first exclaimed these words in spaces they were forced to create for themselves, and it’s crucial to remember that when we use words like ‘yas’ and ‘shady,’ it’s a form of cultural appropriation.”

Non-Binary Pronouns a Growing Part of Gender Identity | Daily Hampshire Gazette

“In their recent research regarding nonbinary college students, [Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center, the UMass LGBTQ resource hub] said they observed the use of a variety of pronouns, though about 90 percent of those interviewed used they/them. Other pronouns include ze/hir and per, which is derived from ‘person.’”

No, We Don’t Need to Come Up With a New Word for “Honour Killing” | Daily Life

“We need to keep in the forefront of our minds exactly what is driving the murder of these women.”

The Cure for “Cellulite”—Delete It From the Lexicon | Irish Examiner

“The word ‘cellulite’ was understood as ‘cellulitis’, a painful bacterial infection of the skin that is characterised by inflammation. It wouldn’t become a beauty ‘problem’ until the 1920s and 1930s when French magazines Marie Claire and Votre Beauté started to write about it as they reworked the idea of the perfect woman in the inter-war years.”

Amid Surge of Money Into Alternative Foods, Some Say It’s Time to Bury the Word “Vegan” | Forbes 

“Plant-based” vs. “vegan.”

Dialogue on Editing Indigenous writing (Editors Canada 2016) | Iva Cheung

“Different nations—and individuals within each nation—may have different approaches.”

When It Comes to Queer Love, Our Word Choices Matter | The Establishment

“My use of gendered words is always deliberate.”

Writer Jack Qu’emi Explains the Meaning of “Latinx” | PRI

“Like the use of ‘they/them/their’ pronouns in English (in place of the gendered pronouns ‘he/him/his’ and ‘she/her/hers’), ‘Latinx’ is an attempt in Spanish to include non-binary people, those who are neither male nor female.”

Updated Usage Note: They | The American Heritage Dictionary

The American Heritage Usage Panel revisited the use of “they” as a singular gender-neutral pronoun.

New Industry Guidance for Health Product Labels Will Make It Easier for Canadians to Use Products Safely | Yahoo!

Health Canada released two “Good Label and Package Practices” guides, “one for non-prescription (i.e. over-the-counter) drugs and natural health products, and the other for prescription drugs. Together, they will provide industry with direction for designing clear and effective health product labels and packages.”

It’s Finally Time to Stop Correcting People’s Grammar, Linguist Says | The Huffington Post

“Language isn’t some delicate cultural artifact but an integral part of being human… Language—which all human societies have in immense grammatical complexity—is far more interesting than pedantry.”—Oliver Kamm, “reformed stickler” and author of “Accidence Will Happen”

People Are Outraged by This “Sexist” Gap Ad | Fortune

“Gap has been criticized for a new advertising campaign depicting an image of a boy, labeled ‘the little scholar,’ wearing a t-shirt with Albert Einstein’s face. Next to him, an image of a girls’ t-shirt, captioned ‘the social butterfly.’”

Don’t Add Your 2 Cents | Derek Sivers

Keep your two cents if “your contribution is small and probably just a meaningless opinion… Let the other person feel full ownership of the idea, instead.”

The Conscious Style Guide newsletter rounds up the best news and blog posts from the world of kind, compassionate, mindful, empowering, respectful, and inclusive language. Note: Spotlighting an opinion is not intended as an endorsement. Please send news tips to .
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