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Guide to Inclusive Language

Words have the power to unite or divide us, to make your audience feel accepted or rejected. Adelphi is a welcoming and inclusive campus and community that respects and honors different religions, abilities, preferences and backgrounds and the language we use reflects this.

We’ve created this guide to provide all members of the Adelphi community with the current inclusive language terminology. We will update this guide as the terminology evolves.

The words and phrases in this guide are recommendations. As a general rule, ask the individual or group what terms they prefer and use those.

Race and Ethnicity

African American/Black

In general, use Black (capitalized), not black, when referring to people of African descent. When referring to a specific group or individual, use the term they prefer, such as Black, African American, African, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino or other. Refer to groups as Black students, Black faculty members, etc., not Blacks.

Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islander

Asian refers to people who are citizens of countries in the Far East, Southeast Asia or the Indian subcontinent, or to describe people of Asian descent. Asian Americans trace their origins to these regions.

Pacific Islanders includes Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Guamanian, Fijian and other peoples of the Pacific Island nations.

Use Asian/Pacific Islander when referring to this population in its entirety. Otherwise, use the preferred term of the individual or group.

Hispanic / Latino/a / LatinX

Hispanic refers to people from Spanish-speaking countries. Latino/a/LatinX is a person of Latin American descent who can be of any background or language. Therefore, people from Chile, Guatemala or Cuba who speak Spanish are both Hispanic and Latino/a/LatinX. Brazilians who speak Portuguese are Latino/a/LatinX, not Hispanic, and Spanish-speaking people in Spain and outside Latin America are Hispanic but not Latino/a/LatinX. 

In general, our style is Hispanic, but use the term preferred by the individual or group, who may identify as, for example, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Mexican American or Cuban American. If the individual or group does not identify as either Latino or Latina, the gender-neutral term LatinX can be used.


Capitalize Indigenous when referring to the original inhabitants of an area. 

National Origins

Do not hyphenate national origins even if they are used as adjectives. Irish American, Polish American, Japanese American.

Native American, American Indian

Native American is preferred unless the individual or group specifies otherwise. Use the term Indian to refer to people from India.

People of Color

People of color refers to individuals or groups who do not identify as white. Do not use the term minority. Refer instead to people of colorstudents of color, etc., or underserved or underrepresented populations.

Gender and Sexuality

Use the inclusive term LGBTQ+, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning, or queer, and others, as it is more inclusive than LGBTQ.

Use the singular they when referring to someone whose gender is not specified. Ze/Hir are gender-inclusive pronouns that can replace he/she and his/her. People who are transgender may also have a preferred pronoun. Justin Vivian Bond uses the nonbinary pronoun “they,” or more simply “V,” rather than the traditional “he” and “she.” Ask your subjects and use the pronouns they prefer.

Noun Usage

Use gender-neutral nouns.

Instead of: Use:
  • Chairman
  • Chair
  • Steward/stewardess
  • Flight attendant
  • Fireman
  • Firefighter
  • Policeman
  • Police officer
  • Salesman
  • Salesperson, sales associate
  • Mankind
  • Humanity, humankind
  • Man and wife
  • Husband and wife


Plural pronouns are becoming more widely accepted as gender-neutral singular pronouns. It is permissible to rewrite using a form of they if you cannot rephrase your sentence to be plural rather than singular.

  • Each author was chosen based on his or her research.
  • Authors were chosen based on their research.

When this is not possible, use the singular they:

If your child registers after this date, they will have to make up the additional work.

Use the singular they when referring to someone whose gender is not specified.

We now use the term first-year as a noun and adjective to describe students entering college. If necessary for clarity, include freshmen in parentheses: a first-year (freshman); first-year students (freshmen).


Replace underclassmen with first-years and sophomores and upperclassmen with juniors and seniors.

Victim, Survivor

Use the term survivor to describe those who have experienced gender-based violence.

Enslaved Person/Enslaver

Unless an official title or direct quote from a person or historical document, use the terms enslaved person, enslaver, and enslavement instead of slave, slave owner and slavery to acknowledge the humanity of those were or are enslaved, both past and present.

Many people are still enslaved today. The family were the enslavers of four people.

But: The spokesperson for Anti-Slavery International said, “Slavery did not end with the nineteenth century.”


People with disabilities are people first: a person with a disability, not disabled personperson on the autism spectrum, not autistic or autistic person. Avoid outdated, offensive words such as handicapped.

Use the term accessible rather than disabled or handicapped to refer to facilities: We use the New York-state approved term accessible parking.

Request assistance from University Communications and Marketing if you are unsure about language; the rules around correct language change and evolve over time. 

You may also seek assistance from our Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

University Communications and Marketing