Editorial style guide

Race and ethnicity

How we write about race and ethnicity.

Race, ethnicity and nationality

Race and ethnicity are social constructs used to characterise people at an individual and group level. While there can be overlap between the two terms, there are important differences that affect use of inclusive language.

  • ‘Race’ is often used to group people on the basis of shared physical traits that are regarded as common among people of a shared ancestry, such as skin colour or hair texture.
  • ‘Ethnicity’ refers to shared cultural expression among a group of people, such as religion, traditions, and customs.
  • Nationality refers to a person’s place of birth or nationality from descent or naturalisation.

We only refer to people’s race, ethnicity or nationality if it is relevant to the information we are communicating.

When it is relevant to refer to race, ethnicity or nationality of an individual, we always ask a person how they would like to be described before we write about them. 

When writing about nationalities, we are specific and do not apply broad geographical labels to individuals unless they describe themselves in that way.  For example, we would say Nigerian, not African, unless the individual chooses that term for themselves.

When we refer to race, ethnicity or nationality in the context of groups, we will use language preferred by the group. We are mindful that there may not be universal consensus around terminology and our usage of terms is on the advice of our communities, who were consulted in the production of this guide.

How we write about race and ethnicity

We recommend the following:

  • Broad ethnicity: black, white (not Caucasian) – written in lower case
  • Specific ethnicity: African, Chinese, Indian, British - written in upper case
  • ‘Minority ethnic group’, rather than ‘minority group’

Use of BAME acronym

BAME is often used as an acronym for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, however, there is variation in the way this acronym can be interpreted and understood and the term can be problematic for some people.

For example, the term BAME does not make clear which specific ethnic minorities are included in this grouping. Some BAME references mean all minority ethnic groups, including white Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller groups, while others include white ethnic minorities in the ‘white’ category.

In addition, use of ‘BAME’ can infer that all non-white people exist as a homogenous group, without appreciation of the characteristics associated with individual ethnicities.

For these reasons, we recommend avoiding use of the term BAME unless it is absolutely necessary and instead to be as specific as possible.

International students and colleagues

We are a global community and our use of language reflects this. 

We say

  • International students

Continents and geographical areas 

When writing about a country or place, we are as specific as possible.

We avoid writing about continents or broad geographical areas, such as Africa or Asia, as a country or monoculture.

Grouping countries and nations

We avoid terms such as ‘first world’, 'third world,' ‘developed', 'undeveloped,' or 'developing countries.' If it is necessary or useful to include the economic status of a country, we use the World Bank classification system.

World Bank country classification

Countries, cities and places that have changed names

There are many examples of countries, cities and places that have changed names. When we write about a place, we consider the name in current usage.


  • Kyiv, not Kiev
  • Beijing, not Peking
  • Ho Chi Minh City, not Saigon
  • Uluru, not Ayers Rock
  • East Asia, not Far East

Where a place name is contested, we consider usage, context, and audience.