Editorial style guide

Inclusive language

Our inclusive language guide focuses on editorial guidance that avoids bias and conveys respect.

Language occurs within larger societal frames that shape how issues are understood and embraced. For this reason, language changes all the time and conversations are always ongoing, particularly in areas where there is not universal consensus.

Our guidance about language has been on the advice of our communities, and our guide is a reflection of this continuing conversation. Where possible, we have referenced our communities’ suggestions for resources or other relevant areas in the University which may provide further context, guidance and help.


Our aim for the University’s Inclusive Language Guide is to provide editorial guidance that allows us to write about one another with dignity and respect, reflecting our core values of equality, diversity and inclusion.

As University of Edinburgh editors, we strive to always ask questions, never make assumptions, and to understand the multiple contexts and viewpoints of our intersecting, global communities.

Professor Sarah Cunningham-BurleyUniversity of Edinburgh lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

As one of the top 50 universities in the world and with a vision of making the world a better place, we are determined to ensure that when we communicate, we do so with:

  • respect 
  • care 
  • sensitivity
  • consistency
  • accuracy

As a global institution and trusted and respected brand, we have an obligation to uphold the highest standard of inclusive language, within the values of our Strategy 2030.

Strategy 2030

Inclusive Language Guide

We have created a guide that attempts to address content that is about or speaks to particular groups of people.

For an understanding of how this guide was developed, our blog post explains how we facilitated the co-design of this guide with our communities.

Inclusive Language Guide: how we co-designed with our community as part of a human-centred Design System

This guidance, like everything in the editorial style guide, is intended for internal and corporate communications. It is not intended for academic contexts.

We know that words matter, so the key objective of the guide will be to offer thoughtful, practical guidance in speaking to and about the diverse range of people that are part of, or have links with, this University.

So far, we have worked with our communities to provide editorial guidance in three key areas and will continue to develop: 

  • disability
  • LGBT+
  • race and ethnicity

Inclusive language principles

Our communities have asked editors to consider three key principles:

1. Always ask, never assume

Our communities are intersecting and global. When we write about people, we never make assumptions, and as far as possible, we ask the person we're writing about how they would prefer to be described.

2. Write for context

When we write about a person or people, we find out as much as we can about their context, so that we can fully understand and reflect their lived experience. 

3. Write with care and respect

Our University culture is one of equality, diversity and inclusion. We write with care, sensitivity, respect and accuracy. 


How we write about disability.


How we write about sexuality and gender.

Race and ethnicity

How we write about race and ethnicity.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 

At the University of Edinburgh, we help one another to build on our culture of equality, diversity and inclusion.

To support your editorial work, you may find it helpful to reference some of the resources which explain more about the lived experience of our communities.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion