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Inclusive writing

Nowadays, scientific writing is accessible to a broader range of readers. It is therefore important to write in an inclusive way and to avoid, for example, language that perpetuates stereotypes, bias, and offence (American Psychological Association, 2022).

Gender-inclusive language

The use of his in example (1a) clearly perpetuates a stereotype that only men work on construction sites. This stereotype is subtly supported by the word foreman. In examples (1b–d) we show several ways to ensure gender-inclusive or gender-neutral writing. The expression his/her in (1b) is correct, but the slash might look a little cluttered in a paragraph. You can use them/they/their to refer to one person, as in (1c), but in many cases, re-writing in the plural (1d) is the best option. Also note the gender-neutral term site manager instead of foreman

Problematic (gender-biased):

(1a) A foreman must communicate daily with his team.  


(1b) A site manager must communicate daily with his/her team.

(1c) A site manager must communicate daily with their team.  

(1d) Site managers must communicate daily with their teams.

Other problematic terms: unmanned, male nurse, man-made, manpower, businessmen

Better: uncrewed, nurse, artificial/synthetic, staff, personnel, businesspeople

She/her as a gender-neutral pronoun

In some domains of academic writing (especially in the social sciences), writers sometimes use she and her as gender-neutral pronouns. This language use is not conventional and can perhaps be regarded as a challenge to sexist stereotypes; however, you should feel confident in using she and her as gender-neutral pronouns if it is common practice in your discipline. Example (2) demonstrates this language use:

(2) If a learner has already interacted with the robot, she will firstly expect a socially competent robot to remember her previous answers … (Engwall, Lopes & Åhlund, 2021:273)

'Person-first' language

You should also aim to describe people using 'person-first' language. In example (3a), the people's disabilities or conditions are emphasised, whereas in (3b), focus is on the patients.

Problematic (conditions in focus):

(3a) Mentally ill, physically disabled, or brain-damaged patients are included.


(3b) Patients with mental health conditions, physical disabilities, or traumatic brain injuries are included.

Hierarchy, race and ethnicity

Avoid indications of hierarchy and outdated references to race and ethnicity, as in (4a). Instead, use correct, clear, and/or specific terms (4b) and, if possible, allow individuals to self-identify (4c). Use capital letters for racial and ethnic groups:


(4a) We interviewed 25 black and other non-white people living in Stockholm.


(4b) We interviewed 25 people of colour living in Stockholm.

(4c) We interviewed 25 Stockholm residents. The interviewees identified as Black (14), Iranian (4), Asian (3), Thai (2), Latin American (1), and Salvadorean (1).

  Previous: Reader-friendly writing


American Psychological Association. 2021. Inclusive language guidelines. Available: Inclusive Language Guidelines (apa.org) . Accessed 20 June, 2022.

Engwall, O., Lopes, J. and Åhlund, A. (2021). Robot Interaction Styles for Conversation Practice in Second Language Learning. International Journal of Social Robotics 13. Pages 251–276. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-020-00635-y