During COVID-19, Student Learning Commons services continue.
For the complete range, including consultations, support, workshops, handouts, and groups, see SLC services continue online.  


First, identify the non-inclusive element(s) in the sentence. Then revise the language in the sentence to be more inclusive. See some suggested revisions and notes about the language are below each sentence. 

1.   Every artist learns from those who came before him or her.

possible revision

This is gendered language and excludes anyone who does not identify within the gender binary. Some possible revisions include:

Every artist learns from those who came before them.*

All artists learn from those who came before them.

* The use of the singular them has a long history. If you prefer, you can always make your subject plural to match the plural pronoun.

2.   My cousin has been on stage all her life and proudly describes herself as an older actress.

possible revision

The term actress is also gendered language, though it is language that is still commonly used by many involved in theatre. This is an instance where you may want to quote the speaker directly. For example, My cousin has been on stage all her life and proudly describes herself as “an older actress.”

You may also consider explaining to your reader the relevance/significance of your cousin’s age and her use of this gendered language to describe herself. As described in the SLC Inclusive Writing resources, this is known as writing the metanarrative.

3.   The Nisga’a have spent a century demanding Indigenous title to their traditional territory.1

possible revision

This language implies a non-Indigenous perspective about Indigenous title. Here is a possible revision:

The Nisga’a have spent a century demanding that the colonial government recognize their Indigenous title to their traditional territory, which was never extinguished.

4.   The fur trade swept up Indigenous Peoples in a new economy based on supplying beaver pelts to French and English traders.2

possible revision

While the fur trade with French and English traders did, indeed, represent a new economy for many Indigenous Peoples, the language of “swept up” casts the Indigenous peoples involved as passive players within, rather than active creators of, this new economy. Here is a possible revision

The fur trade represented a new economy based on beaver pelts for the French, English, and Indigenous traders involved.

Note, too, that Indigenous Peoples is a sweeping term. Not all Indigenous Peoples were involved in the fur trade, or traded specifically in beaver pelts with the French and English. Ideally, be more specific about which Indigenous Nations you are specifically writing about.

5.   Asian students can expect to see the greatest success in the fields of Business, Computer Science, and Engineering.3

possible revision

This entire sentence seems to be based on a stereotypical association between Asian students and success in specific academic subjects. To revise, consider the evidence you are drawing on and the specific claim you want to make. For example, “According to statistics from a recent SFU survey, international students from Japan, China, and Vietnam indicated that they experienced the most success in their Business, Computer Science, and Engineering classes.”

*Note: no such survey actually exists, and so this wouldn’t be a compelling claim to make!

6.   Did SFU’s designers consider the disabled when they decided to build so many stairs?

possible revision

While this is an understandable question for anyone who has experienced a challenge navigating SFU, the issue here is that the sentence uses an adjective (disabled) as a stand in for an entire group of people. Additionally, disability is another umbrella term and is often used to refer to, for example, learning disabilities and mental health concerns, which may have little to no impact on someone’s use of stairs. Here, again, you may want to be more specific when you revise:

“Did SFU’s designers consider people using mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and even strollers, when they decided to build so many stairs?”

7.   Trump’s alleged ban on transgenders in the military is a political ploy.4

possible revision

The issue here is that the sentence uses an adjective (transgender) as a stand in for an entire group of people. Instead, keep the adjective as an adjective and use it to describe a noun (ex., people or soliders): “Trump’s alleged ban on transgender soldiers in the military is a political ploy.”

8.   They/them/theirs are Simeon’s preferred pronouns.

possible revision

Our identities are not preferences. Calling Simeon’s pronouns preferred suggests that it is optional to use them or not. Here is a possible revision, “They/them/their are Simeon’s pronouns.”

9.   Many women never come forward to report abuse, rape, violence and assault because the trauma of the legal process is sometimes seen as exacerbating the original crime, rather than punishing it.5

possible revision

Two central issues arise in this sentence:

  1. It implies that only women experience abuse, rape, violence, and assault (or that only women do not come forward about these experiences), and
  2. The language “seen as” casts doubt as to whether or not the legal process is intimidating and foreboding for those who chose not to come forward. Given that a central challenge for those who do report such incidents is being believed, any language that introduces doubt is problematic and potentially alienating. Here is a possible revision, “Many people never come forward to report abuse, rape, violence, and assault because the trauma of the legal process can exacerbate [or simply, exacerbates] the original crime, rather than punishing it.”

10.   Neighbourhood resistance to temporary modular housing sends a hostile message to the homeless.

possible revision

Another example of an adjective representing a group. As in the other examples, this also creates a generalization where more specificity is in order. Here is a possible revision, “Neighbourhood resistance to temporary modular housing sends a hostile message to those who need that housing, including those experiencing homelessness, housing instability, or who are under-housed.

11.   I acknowledge that SFU is on unceded traditional Indigenous territory.

possible revision

It is great to offer a land acknowledgment, although some Indigenous peoples have expressed concerns that these acknowledgments are sometimes being done without proper care and consideration. Doing a land acknowledgment well requires us to learn about the Nations whose territories we are occupying. Resources like this online Native Land map (https://native-land.ca/) can help.

A more inclusive land acknowledgment would read: “I acknowledge that SFU’s Burnaby campus is on the unceded shared territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), and kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) peoples.

* Unceded means never transferred or surrendered and indicates that much of the land in British Columbia is untreatied and yet remains occupied. Lands for which there are Treaties are not unceded and should not be described as such. See the Inclusive Writing Resources Glossary for more information.

Land acknowledgements are most effective when they are made with a personal connection and understanding, rather than simply by following an accepted script.

12.   These slides will also include captions for the hearing-impaired.

possible revision

While some people still use it, many people find the term hearing-impaired harmful, since it comes from a deficit framework that focuses on an impairment. Deaf and hard of hearing are often more acceptable.

It is also worth asking whether only those who are hearing-impaired (or deaf or hard of hearing) will benefit from the captions. Indeed, many people use captions for many different reasons. Captions can be considered an example of universal design for that reason.

This revision would probably effectively communicate your message, without using a term that some find harmful and exclusionary: “These slides will also include captions.”

13. Autistic people may suffer from a variety of symptoms, all of which may make it challenging for them to participate normally in class. 

possible revision

The term suffer indicates that someone is in distress, which may or may not be the case for specific Autistic students in specific classes. In addition to being potentially inaccurate, many Autistic people dismiss this kind of language as pitying. Use non-judgmental descriptive language in its place.

Words that imply that some people are “normal” or have a normal experience and that others are “abnormal” or have abnormal experiences are inaccurate and harmful. In this case, for example, it would be more helpful to get specific about what kinds of class participation may be challenging for Autistic people. As always, inclusive writing asks us to consider what we really want to say and why it is relevant.

Here is a possible revision of this sentence:

“Autistic students may find it helpful to stim during class.”

Stimming can refer to a broad range of behaviours, and usually consists of repetitive actions or movements. Many people, whether or Autistic or not, find stimming calming and find that it helps them to focus. Because stimming can increase focus, it should be viewed as improving and not distracting from classroom participation and engagement. See the Inclusive Writing Resources Glossary for more.


You can download the complete Inclusive and Antiracist Writing Guide, with expanded explanations, on the Overview Page.


1 From Gregory Younging, Elements of Indigenous Style, p. 76.

2 Ibid.

3 From https://www.mcgill.ca/senate-subcommittee-women/files/senate-subcommittee-women/INCLUSIVELANGUAGEGUIDELINES2010.pdf (p. 12)

4 From The Radical Copyeditor: https://radicalcopyeditor.com/2017/08/31/transgender-style-guide/

5 From https://www.nelsonnet.com.au/cproot/1273/2/ENG10LAIN00046.pdf