From the World of Conscious Language

Note: The authors’ viewpoints are not necessarily shared by Conscious Style Guide.

How Dehumanizing Language Fuels Mass Incarceration | Common Dreams

“Words like felon, convict, criminal, prisoner, offender, and perpetrator create a paradigm where the person is removed from the equation and individuals are defined by a single experience. These labels ignore the social, economic, and political drivers of mass incarceration and deprive people of their complex identities.”

No More “Convicts” or “Felons” If San Francisco Passes Criminal Justice Language Proposal | Los Angeles Times

“Some examples include changing ‘felon’ and ‘offender’ to ‘returning resident’ or ‘formerly incarcerated person.’ A ‘parolee’ could be described as a ‘person under supervision.’ ‘Convict’ could be referred to as a ‘currently incarcerated person,’ while a ‘juvenile offender’ or ‘delinquent’ would be described as a ‘young person impacted by the justice system.’”

How the Abortion Debate Moved Away From “Safe, Legal, and Rare” | Vox

“Advocates have argued that calling for abortion to be ‘rare’ just makes it even harder for people who already struggle to get the procedure—who are disproportionately likely to be poor, people of color, LGBTQ, immigrants, or belong to more than one of these groups—to push for their right to get it.”

Reviewers, Don’t Be Rude to Nonnative English Speakers | Science

“You can also suggest editing help from someone with ‘full professional proficiency in English.’ Don’t demand ‘a native English speaker’; that is not synonymous with being a good writer.”

The Way We Talk About Disabilities Is Evolving. Is It Evolving Fast Enough? | Mother Jones

“‘Special needs’ fell out of fashion when advocates pointed out there’s nothing ‘special’ about needing health care, education, safety, and access to public accommodations.”

Why Young People Use the Word Latinx—and How They Explain It to Their Parents | Bustle

“The term Latinx is one way some people have chosen to reclaim their identity, who’ve never felt represented by the word Hispanic.”

Yes, “Black” Is Capitalized When We’re Talking About Race | Mic

“When writing about myself, my identity, and those of other Black folx, I own the right to use the accurate descriptor. When an editor isn’t willing to create that space for me, it feels suffocating not just to my creativity, but to my being.”

Six Rape Tropes and How to Replace Them | Mythcreants

How storytellers can accomplish their goals without relying on rape tropes.

Fat Is Not a Bad Word | Teen Vogue

“How fat is weaponized, and the reclamation of the word, goes beyond size. Fat stigma is also tied to anti-blackness.”


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How Should We Talk About What’s Happening to Our Planet? | The Washington Post

“Whereas science has traditionally been guided by dispassionate, male-centric authority, women are rewording climate conversations to honor the collective, connective nature of the problem. And how we talk about the environment affects how we think about it.”

Geena Davis Unveils Partnership With Disney to “Spellcheck” Scripts for Gender Bias | The Hollywood Reporter

“Davis says the goal is not to ‘shame and blame’ screen creators, but rather to reveal the unconscious bias that commonly manifests in even the most well-meaning screenwriter’s work. With the data in hand, informed adjustments can be made to scripts so that they don’t perpetuate stereotypes and their pernicious real-world effects.”

Study: Tweets by Black Folks One and a Half Times More Likely to Be Flagged as “Offensive” by Algorithms Used to Detect Hate Speech | Atlanta Black Star

“You can have the most sophisticated neural network model, [but] the data is biased because humans are deciding what’s hate speech and what’s not.” —Thomas Davidson, researcher, Cornell

Plain Language About Health Data Is Essential for Transparency and Trust | The Conversation

“It is our view that you can’t have trust without transparency, and you can’t have transparency and informed consent without plain language.”

The Three Words That Almost Ruined Me as a Writer: “Show, Don’t Tell” | Literary Hub

“It’s the binary and the dualism that’s the problem, as if ‘showing’ and ‘telling’ were our only options.”

When Dictionaries Wade Into the Gender (Non)Binary | The New York Times

Peter Sokolowski, lexicographer and editor at large for Merriam-Webster, explains that “the evolution of ‘they’ is something like what happened to ‘you’ centuries ago, when it drifted from plural to singular, nudging ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ into Elizabethan obscurity.”

“Brexitspeak” Growing Too Fast for Public to Keep Up, Say Experts | The Guardian

“A lot of the language is designed to trigger [emotions] rather than elucidate.” —Tony Thorne, linguistics consultant

So You Want to Write an Abstract | Eos

“These jargon-light, accessible synopses are an excellent opportunity to get your paper noticed by scientists outside your field, journalists, and even members of the science-interested public.”

When Latinx People Use the N-Word | The New York Times

“There is no justification for any white or white-presenting Latinx person to continue dropping the N-word knowing how hurtful it still is to Afro-Latinx and black peers.”

Changing the Terminology to “People With Obesity” Won’t Reduce Stigma Against Fat People | The Conversation

“This suggested language change is based on the idea obesity is a disease to be cured and fat people are not a natural part of the world. This serves to reinforce stigma, rather than prevent it.”


From the Archives

“Hapa”: A Unique Case of Cultural Appropriation by Multiracial Asian Americans?

On embracing a Hawaiian identity without the experience of colonization and inequality.


In Case You Missed It

September 2019 Newsletter

Read about recent research on the effects of gender-neutral pronouns, the terminology strongly discouraged by Serious Eats, and AP’s treatment of Sam Smith’s preferred pronouns.


More Resources From Conscious Style Guide

The Editors of Color Databasea project of Conscious Style Guide, is a free service that connects employers and recruiters with editors, proofreaders, and sensitivity readers of color in the U.S. and Canada. Also home to the Database of Diverse Databases, now with sixty resources!

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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 love@consciousstyleguide.com.

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