• Avoid words like "victim, crippled, retarded, confined to a wheelchair" or "suffers from" when writing about people with disabilities.
  • Use "Accessible to those with disabilities," or "in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act," not "handicapped accessible."
  • Always refer to the person first and the disability second:
    • Students with learning disabilities, not learning-disabled students.
  • A device to be used by people with vision impairments, not a device for the blind.
  • Necessary to use a wheelchair, not confined to a wheelchair.
  • Battled cancer, not a cancer victim.


  • Congenial disability, not birth defect
  • Down’s syndrome, not Mongol or Mongoloid
  • Disability, not handicap
  • Mental illness, not crazy, lunatic, demented or maniac
  • Short stature, not dwarf or midget
  • Without speech, not mute or dumb
  • Blind, not partially sighted
  • Learning disabilities, not slow learner or retarded
  • People with disabilities, not special
  • Accessible to those with disabilities, not handicapped accessible

Ethnic groups

  • When writing about ethnic groups, use the term widely preferred by that group, without a hyphen:
    • Egyptian American
    • Arab American
    • African American, not black or Afro American
    • Caucasian, not white
    • Asian American, not Oriental
    • Hispanic
    • Latino (male), Latina (female)
    • Native American

Gender-Neutral Language

  • Avoid gender-specific language, which is most commonly the use of a male pronoun. Always try to use the plural form.
    • Preferred: Staff members must show their ID cards.
    • Not preferred: Each student must show his/her ID card.
  • However, if you are speaking of someone who holds a position and you know the gender, use the appropriate pronoun: The doctor examined her patients.
  • Avoid gender-based words. Use: 
    • Average person, not common man
    • Chair or chairperson, not chairman or chairwoman
    • Representative, not congressman
    • Police officer, not policeman
    • Supervisor, not foreman
    • Mail carrier or postal worker, not mailman
    • Firefighter, not fireman
    • Flight attendant, not stewardess
    • Artificial, not manmade
    • Staffed, not manned
    • Search, not manhunt
    • People, not mankind
    • Personnel, not manpower
    • To operate, not to man

The American Heritage Dictionary
The Associated Press Stylebook