Thank you for being here. Inclusive and antiracist practice -- including writing practice -- is about showing up, about an ongoing willingness to learn, and about doing the work. These guides are intended to be informative, educational, and supportive. They are not entirely comprehensive, because such a thing is impossible. As a result, they are living documents and always a work in progress. 

You can use these guides in whatever way serves the work of advancing inclusive and antiracist practice: Go ahead and read every page all the way through, if you like! More realistically, though, jump around in the content. Take a bit from here and a bite from there. Take a stroll through this content, and then nip in and read the explanation of an unfamiliar term over here. Always ask questions as you read. Try out some exercises. Send me your feedback (Julia Lane - jhlane@sfu.ca). 

Navigation tip: Where you see a red arrow to the left hand side of some text, it means that you can click on that text and read more content below. Check out the "Principles" section below for an example.

About inclusive & antiracist writing

Inclusive and antiracist writing is about so much more than words. As Felicia Rose Chavez writes in The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop, we've got to "be about" this work. 

Inclusive writing means paying attention to the ways that language can be, and has been, used to exclude people or groups of people. Exclusive language is often used unintentionally, out of both habit and assumption. So, if you want to write in an inclusive way, you have to intentionally think about the perspectives, peoples, and groups that might be excluded and even harmed through careless word choice.

These guides exist to support you with that intentionality as you approach your thinking, research, writing, revision, and even publication. I hope they will support you to "be about" this work in everything you do. 

(some) Principles of inclusive and antiracist writing

Communication is adaption 

Language, language-use, writing, and all forms of communicating are always changing. Inclusive writing is not about memorizing lists of words to use and words not to use. Indeed, many terms that used to be considered inclusive are now understood as exclusionary. The pace of change is fast!  

Question assumptions

Inclusive and antiracist practice is, in many ways, about getting better at recognizing our own assumptions, especially the ones we have never noticed before -- those things that we have always just taken for granted to be "true." [1] 

One of the best ways to do this is to engage widely, intentionally seeking out experiences and perspectives that are different from your own. Sometimes this includes talking with people around you, but often it involves first taking a look at the books you read and the media you consume. 

Choose words thoughtfully and carefully 

Inclusive and antiracist writing is about more than just words, but words matter too![2] Slow down your writing process. Ask yourself questions like, "Why am I choosing this word?" "How do I think this word will impact others?" Then, extend this careful thought beyond words to include grammar, syntax, punctuation, capitalization

Revise critically

Don't expect to get it right the first time. Expect to learn more, have more questions, and to revise your writing accordingly. 

While we are at it, we can do away with the idea of "getting it right" altogether. As Tema Okun identified, perfectionism is a characteristic of white supremacy. Instead of aiming for "perfect" or even "right," we can aim to put our best selves and best work forward on the page. 

Seek feedback

Seek feedback from external readers, especially those whose experiences differ from your own – these readers can help you to understand your work in new ways. Once you've sought out this feedback, back sure you learn from it!

As we do this work, we will make mistakes, but mistakes are not an excuse to stop trying. When someone gives you feedback –- especially critical feedback –- practice thanking them for giving you an opportunity to learn more, even if the learning is uncomfortable for you.

Whether you are seeking or providing feedback on writing, this document outlining Anti-Racist Scholarly Reviewing Practices can be incredibly supportive for offering feedback that is, itself, inclusive and antiracist in intention and impact. 

Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes 

Sometimes people make sweeping generalizations about others based on some aspect of their identity (for example, “all women are emotional,” “all queer men are liberal,” etc.). People cannot be defined or categorized according to one aspect of their identity alone, and all groups of people are made up of individuals who have their own thoughts, opinions, experiences, etc. [3]

Attend to form and content 

Your writing is, of course, about your content (i.e., your ideas), but it is also about how you present your content. Pay attention to the readability of your document (some fonts are easier to read than others), about whether you can simplify your language, and whether you have provided alt-text for any images included with your work (see Glossary for explanation). Did you know that you can run an accessibility check on Word documents and Powerpoint slides?

You also have choices to make about the linguistic strategies and repertoires that you use. There are many valid and effective ways to use the English language and many ways to engage multilingualism in writing as well! 

Avoid flattening

Recognize when a dominant experience or perspective is being applied (incorrectly) to everyone. For example, "women got the right to vote in 1918." This comment is specific both to Canada and to white women. [4]

In almost no case is it acceptable to use an adjective (a descriptive word) to refer to a person or group of people (for example, the gays, the Blacks, the homeless). Furthermore, it is not acceptable to write about an individual as though they speak for or represent an entire group or category of people, or the entirety of a particular experience.

Inclusive and antiracist writing resources

The following specific resources are available and you can navigate to them using the menu on this page. [5] 

  • Glossary of Inclusive and Antiracist Writing Terms
  • Inclusive and Antiracist Writing: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
  • Inclusive and Antiracist Writing: Black Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, People(s) of Colour (BIPOC)
  • Inclusive and Antiracist Writing: Ableism, Disability, Mental Health, and Neurodiversity
  • Inclusive and Antiracist Writing Exercises
  • You can download the complete Inclusive and Antiracist Writing Guide, with expanded explanations, here

*While these resources have been broken apart to provide focus, the concept of intersectionality (a term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, see glossary for description) helps us to understand that these aspects of identity do not necessarily occur independently from one another and are often embodied by people in intersecting and interconnected ways. The divisions in these resources are in no way meant to suggest that these identities or experiences are exclusive of one another.

If you have a recommendation for a resource, a new inclusive writing topic, or a change that should be made to the existing materials, please contact me at jhlane@sfu.ca

Additional resources 

Notes & acknowledgements 

These writing resources were developed on the unceded lands of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically those of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), and Səlílwətaɬ (TsleilWaututh) peoples. I hope that these resources will be valuable to all those engaged in decolonizing and empowering work in the academy and beyond.

[1] Note: This step can be pretty challenging, both practically and emotionally. On a practical level: read widely, listen to those whose perspectives differ from your own, and share your work, paying close attention to the feedback you receive. On an emotional level: be gentle with yourself and get support from others, especially if you find yourself questioning previously important beliefs.

[2] The word careful is often used to mean cautious. Here the word carefully literally means with care and in a caring way. This is an important distinction because sometimes inclusivity is thought of as a way of not upsetting anyone. That idea is often referred to as being politically correct. The focus in these resources is on extending care and consideration for the impact of our work and our words.

[3] Thank you to Ally Flynn, Media Librarian & Liaison Librarian for Communications, English & Technology from Camosun Library for the suggestion to add this principle. 

[4] This insight comes from Anti-Racist Scholarly Reviewing Practices: A Heuristic for Editors, Reviewers, and Authors and is paraphrased here with gratitude. This is also a useful and recommended resource for researchers, authors, peer reviewers, writing coaches, and editors. 

[5] Thank you to Ashley Brooks, former Coordinator of Out On Campus at SFU; Vivian Ly, President of SFU Autistics United; and David Le and Mitchell Stoddard from SFU’s Centre for Accessible Learning for their feedback and suggestions on all of these writing resources.

SLC Inclusive and Antiracist Writing Guides © 2019 by Julia Lane is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0