Bias-Free Content

We strive to make our publications representative of the community and the target audience. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that words can inflame and divide or welcome and include. Avoid language that is biased toward race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.

Choose words that do not treat one group as the norm and another group as a subset. When possible, strive for gender-neutral terms. Use “workers” instead of “workmen,” “chairperson” or “chair” instead of “chairman” or “chairwoman,” “head of school” instead of “headmaster,” “first-year student” instead of “freshman.”

Acceptable terms for referring to physical and cultural differences seem to change fairly quickly; therefore, it is wise to stay abreast of these changes or get guidance (from professionals who work with the particular group, the ADA Office, relevant Internet sites, peer groups) when in doubt. When writing about someone with a disability, for example, it is now considered unhelpful, even inflammatory, to use language that seems to focus on struggle or that sensationalizes the person’s situation, as in words like “suffers from” or “is a victim of.” Always ask yourself whether mentioning a particular fact about a person is relevant to the mission of the project.

In choosing photos for your project, try to include a variety that demonstrates the variability among the people at Middlebury (when pertinent to the project), with younger and older individuals, people with disabilities, and various ethnic backgrounds engaged in non-stereotypical activity.