Is My Writing Offensive?


It is essential to use politically correct language to avoid offending your audience; failing to do so can be devastating professionally and personally—even if unintentional. As we see frequently in the media, writing or speaking without politically correct or inclusive language can have a lasting negative impact that proves impossible to retract, especially in today’s age of social media and online content sharing.


When writing or speaking, it is important to consider that today’s audiences span a diverse blend of nationalities, ages, ethnicities, family statuses, religions, political views, gender identities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds. When speaking or writing, all members of the audience should be included and addressed using inclusive language, and it is not safe to assume that you know the background, identity, lifestyle, and beliefs of every audience member.

Politically correct means expressing yourself using neutral, unbiased, and inoffensive language that does not demean, demoralize, marginalize, or discriminate against another person or group. Inclusive language considers all perspectives without exclusion, inferiority, or stereotyping.


To write and speak without offending your recipients, AVOID the following: stereotypes (No: Jared ran fast for a white boy. Yes: Jared ran fast), male-only pronouns (No: The athlete selected for the scholarship will have to arrive early for his award. Yes: The athlete selected for the scholarship will have to arrive early for his/her award. Or, make the noun plural and use third-person pronouns without gender: The athletes selected for the scholarships will arrive early for their awards.), male-only titles (No: How many students want to be firemen? Yes: How many students want to be firefighters?), male-only terms (No: The manmade material caused me to itch. Yes: The synthetic material caused me to itch.), victimization (No: The victims of Hurricane Sandy lost everything. Yes: During Hurricane Sandy, residents lost everything), and putting the disability before the person (No: With an elevator, the building is accessible to disabled people. Yes: With an elevator, the building is accessible to people with disabilities.)


Also, AVOID hyphenating nationalities (No: Asian-Americans come from many different countries of origin. Yes: Asian Americans come from many different countries of origin.), negative descriptions (No: On the test, non-Whites expressed that they could not identify with the reading passage. Yes: On the test, African Americans expressed that they could not identify with the reading passage.), and excluding all sexual orientations (No: A woman should call her husband when she has trouble with their kids. Yes: A woman should call her partner when she has trouble with their kids.)