Inclusive content

“As we build government services, we want to ensure they are accessible and welcoming to everyone who needs to use them. Inclusive language helps us to be more accurate and build trust with our users.”

Our guide is taken from the 18F Inclusive language guide.

Ability and disability

Focus on what people need to do, what tools they use, and avoid making assumptions.

If a person’s situation, medical condition, illness, or injury is relevant to the content, be as specific as possible and avoid inserting value judgements about their circumstance. For example, use has multiple sclerosis, not is afflicted with or suffers from.

  • Do not describe people as disabled, handicapped, or confined to a wheelchair.

  • Do not use terms that contribute to stigmas around disability or mental illness: crazy, dumb, lame, insane, psycho, schizophrenic, or stupid.

  • Do not use terms that contribute to stigmas around sensory disabilities: blind spot or tone deaf.

Just like with language around race, gender, or other identities, it’s always best to ask people how they identify rather than assuming.

See the Disability Language Style Guide from the National Center on Disability and Journalism for more guidance


Do not refer to someone’s age, unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing about (for example, when referring to benefits that are available to people of certain ages).

  • We use older person. We do not use senior to elderly.

    • Where possible use specific age groups, like people aged 12 to 16 or people 12 to 16.

  • Don’t use women or older relatives as substitute for novice or beginner. For example, don’t say something is so simple your mother can use it.

Gender and sexuality

Make content gender neutral wherever possible. If you’re writing about a hypothetical person or if you’re unsure of the person’s pronouns, use they or them instead of he/she.

  • Do not make assumptions about marital or family relationships.

    • Use spouse or partner. Do not use husband and wife.

    • Use parent. Do not use mother and father.

  • Use they or their as singular pronouns.

  • Do not use guys as a way to refer to mixed-gender groups.

  • Use different sex instead of opposite sex (because this recognizes gender as a spectrum, rather than a binary).

Do not use words and phrases that indicate gender bias, such as irrelevant descriptions of appearance.

Use descriptors of gender identity or sexual orientation as modifiers, not as nouns (for example, transgender personcisgender person, or lesbian woman).

Do not guess sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. When in doubt, either reconsider the need to include this information or ask the person you’re referring to how they identify and what terms they prefer.

See the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Style Guide or the GLAAD Media Reference Guide.

note to add more specifics from OTI links

Nationality or immigration status

We use San Franciscan to describe our users.

We do not use the word citizen as a generic term for people who live in the United States. Many government programs serve non-citizens and individuals with a wide range of immigration and visa statuses.

  • Be as specific as possible. Depending on the situation, you may want to say something like people who need healthcare or people who need to access government services online.

  • Only use citizens when citizenship status is required for a service.

Race, ethnicity, and religion

Do not use words, images, or situations that reinforce racial, ethnic, or religious stereotypes (even stereotypes that may appear to be positive). Do not use the term non-white, or other terms that treat whiteness as a default.

Do not make assumptions: ask how people identify themselves, and be aware of complexities within racial, ethnic, and religious identities. For example, not all Arabs are Muslim, and many nationalities and ethnicities include various religious practices and traditions.

When referring to a person’s race or ethnicity, use adjectives, not nouns (for example, a Hispanic person, not a Hispanic).

More resources

Other resources

Atlassians' inclusive language guide

Intuit’s Content Design accessibility and inclusion guide

NHS Inclusive language