5 things to read on… inclusive language

by | Apr 29, 2021 | Inclusive teaching

Freddie GentAs a regular feature on TEA we’ll be bringing you a monthly list of ‘5 things to read on…’ aligned with different aspects of inclusive teaching.



The University of Manchester Diversity Calendar highlights Inclusive Language as a focus this month.  Without even realising, there are instances where we might use exclusionary language which is biased, discriminatory or offensive. Using inclusive language circumvents these issues and ensures that no one in your audience feels excluded.

As a starting point, it is useful to consult the University’s updated guidance on Inclusive Language.

1. Navigating Difficult Moments in the Classroom

Let’s start by considering what you should do if you encounter exclusionary and/or offensive language in the classroom. Guidance from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning on Navigating Difficult Moments in the Classroom can help you to respond productively, whilst avoiding inadvertent indifference or hostility. The four steps outlined can help defuse uncomfortable situations and implement a longer-term solution which will encourage future use of inclusive language.

2. Use of language: race and ethnicity

Race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably, but advice from AdvanceHE on Use of language: race and ethnicity highlights the importance of understanding the difference. A brief introduction to the limitations of the acronyms BME and BAME is provided concluding with a consideration of the significance of word order.

3. Disability Language: How to Talk About Disability

Esi Hardy’s study Disability Language: How to Talk About Disability promotes the use of disability-inclusive language by laying bare the discriminatory origins of some popular – but avoidable – terminology. The alternatives that Esi advocates draw on a range of good practices, including person-first theory (which puts the emphasis on the person and removes focus from the disability) and language that highlights a person’s abilities over their limitations.

Please note: Whilst the suggested terms given in this article closely reflects the University’s instruction, colleagues should continue to use the University of Manchester’s Guide to Inclusive Language as conclusive guidance.

4. ‘Don’t call me BAME’: Why some people are rejecting the term

While AdvanceHE’s Use of language: race and ethnicity introduces the issue (see 2. above), this BBC report ‘Don’t call me BAME’: Why some people are rejecting the term provides a more in-depth look at the limitations of classing individuals as BAME. An acronym for ‘Black, Asian and minority ethnic’, the term groups together a large non-white population without acknowledging individuality. The term itself can be perceived as exclusionary when it does not incorporate all minority ethnic groups, such as White Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller, marginalising these communities even further.

5. Inclusive Moves

Just past the half-way point of the webpage Inclusive Moves the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning advises staff to be mindful of language. The short paragraph encourages a proactive approach to researching any terminology that you feel uncomfortable or uncertain using and being open with students about your personal learning process. The advice carries a positive tone and concludes: ‘[when] it comes to mindfulness around language, it’s important to operate with a spirit of open-minded curiosity, humility, and goodwill’.