NH1 News Debates


Jul 29, 2015 2:22 PM

FULL LIST: 'Problematic' terms according to UNH 'Bias-Free Language Guide'


Below is the full list of terms that the University of New Hampshire's "Bias-Free Language Guide" says are preferred instead of the "problematic" terms underneath them.

READ: Controversy brews after UNH 'Bias-Free Language Guide" deems words - including 'American' - problematic

Age, class, size

Preferred: people of advanced age, old people*
Problematic/Outdated: older people, elders, seniors, senior citizen
*Old people has been reclaimed by some older activists who believe the standard wording of old people lacks the stigma of the term “advanced age”. Old people also halts the euphemizing of age. Euphemizing automatically positions age as a negative.

Preferred: person who lacks advantages that others have, low economic status related to a person’s education, occupation and income
Problematic: poor person, person from the ghetto
Note: Some people choose to live a life that is not connected to the consumer world of material possessions. They do not identify as “poor”.

Preferred: person living at or below the poverty line, people experiencing poverty
Problematic/Outdated: poor person, poverty-stricken person

Preferred: person-experiencing homelessness
Problematic/Outdated: the homeless, which reduces the person to being defined by their housing rather than as a person first - one who does not have a home

Preferred: person-using welfare
Problematic/Outdated: “welfare queen”

Preferred: person of material wealth
Problematic: rich
Being rich gets conflated with a sort of omnipotence; hence, immunity from customs and the law. People without material wealth could be wealthy or rich of spirit, kindness, etc.

Preferred: people of size
Problematic/Outdated: obese*, overweight people
“Obese” is the medicalization of size, and “overweight” is arbitrary; for example, standards differ from one culture to another.

Ability/disability status

Preferred: "non-disabled" is the preferred term for people without disabilities.
problematic: normal, able-bodied, healthy or whole

Preferred: person who is blind/visually impaired
Problematic: blind person, “dumb”

Preferred: person who is deaf or hard-of-hearing
Problematic: deaf person, Deaf-and-Dumb, Deaf-Mute

Preferred: person with a speech/communication impairment
Problematic: dumb, speech impediment

Preferred: person who is learning disabled, person who has a cognitive disability, person with a learning or cognitive disability, persons
with intellectual and developmental disability
Problematic: retarded, slow, brain-damaged, special education student

Preferred: person with a psychiatric disability; person with a mental health condition
Problematic: mentally ill, hyper-sensitive, psycho, crazy, insane, wacko, nuts

Preferred: wheelchair user, person who is - wheelchair mobile, physically disabled, quadriplegic, paraplegic
Problematic: handicapped, physically challenged, invalid, “special”, deformed, cripple, gimp, spaz, wheelchair-bound, confined to a wheelchair, lame

Preferred: seeking help for emotional mental health, person who identifies as having an emotional disability
Problematic: emotionally disturbed

Preferred: cognitively/developmentally delayed/disabled, person with a cognitive/developmental delay or disability, person with an intellectual disability
Problematic: retard, mentally retarded, special ed student

Preferred: someone of short stature, little person
Problematic: dwarf, midget

Preferred: person “living with” a specific disability, (i.e. “someone living with cancer or AIDS”)
Problematic: victim, someone “stricken with” a disability (i.e. “someone stricken with cancer” or “an AIDS victim”)
"Afflicted with", “stricken with”, “suffers from”, “victim of”, and “confined to” are terms that are based on the assumption that a person with a disability is suffering or living a reduced quality of life. Instead, use neutral language when describing a person who has a disability. Not every person with a disability 'suffers,' is a 'victim' or is 'stricken.' Instead simply state the facts about the nature of the person's disability, preferably in the way that they have told you they want to be identified.

Race, ethnicity, culture and immigrant status

Preferred: Black or African American
Problematic: negro, negroid, colored person, dark

Preferred: U.S. citizen or Resident of the U.S.
Problematic: American
Note: North Americans often use “American” which usually, depending on the context, fails to recognize South America

Preferred: North American or South American
Problematic: American: assumes the U.S. is the only country inside these two continents.

Preferred: People of Color
Problematic: Colored, Non-White
Note: In the U.S. context, “People of Color” usually refers to Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, Latino/a, Hispanic, African American and biracial/multiracial people and should not be used synonymously with “Black” or “African American.”

Preferred: use the specific name of the country on the continent; Africa; e.g., Egypt, Ethiopia
Problematic: Africa, which is a continent of many countries
Note: “African” is a broad term. Even though we know Africa as one of the seven continents, citizens prefer to identify with their country of origin, such as Ethiopian or Nigerian.

Preferred: Western Asian, Northern African people
Problematic: Arabs
Note: The people of these regions of the world identify according to their genealogical, linguistic, or cultural backgrounds. When applicable, tribal affiliations and intra-tribal relationships play an important role in their identity.

Preferred: White people, European-American individuals
Problematic: Caucasian people

Preferred: international people
Problematic: foreigners

Preferred: Undocumented* immigrant or worker; person seeking asylum, refugee
Problematic: illegal alien
*Although preferable to illegal (when we call a person illegal, we imply that they are an object), this term lacks recognition of the person’s humanity first.

Preferred: bi-racial people, multi-racial individuals when it is relevant to state this in a communication
Problematic: mixed race people, mulatto

Preferred: Asian people, Asian American individuals
Problematic: Orientals
Note: Certain food may be labeled Oriental, and carpets may be “Oriental”, but not people’s identities. The suffix “American” signifies that the person was born in or spent formative years in North America.

Preferred: Latino people or Latino/a people,
Problematic: Spanish People (only appropriate for people from Spain; and, therefore, imprecise when referring to people from Latin, Central or South America)

Preferred: Native Americans or indigenous people or First Nation people (Often referring to native Canadians)
Problematic: Indians (when referring to indigenous American people unless the person indicates that they preferred to be identified as Indian)

Multiracial: A term designating persons of interracial parentage or heritage. This terms was added to the Census 2000 and has allowed interracial persons to select a more appropriate category that didn't force them to choose between parts of their heritage. People consider themselves biracial when their heritage consists of two races.

Ethnicity: A group identity assigned to specific groups of people who share a common linguistic, religious and/or cultural heritage. Ethnicity is not synonymous with "race".

Race: A group identity historically related to a local geographic or global human population traditionally distinguished as a group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics. Race is believed to be a social construct, without biological merit that was designed to maintain slavery.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

Preferred: Sexual Orientation, Sexual Identity
Problematic: Sexual Preference
The scientifically accurate term for an individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or other sex, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual (straight) orientations. Avoid the offensive term “sexual preference”, which is used to suggest that being gay or lesbian is voluntary and therefore “curable.”

Preferred: Gay, Lesbian, Same Gender Loving (SGL)
Problematic: “Homosexual”
“Homosexual” is an outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many gay and lesbian people. Gay and/or lesbian accurately describe those who are attracted to people of the same sex or gender. Same Gender Loving is sometimes used among African American sexual minority individuals.

Preferred: Sexual Minorities, Queer, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ)
Problematic: People of an alternative “lifestyle” (when referring to sexuality)
“Lifestyle” is an inaccurate term used by anti-gay extremists to denigrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lives. As there is not one straight lifestyle, there is not one lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender lifestyle. Queer, historically a derogatory term, has been reclaimed by many sexual minorities and their allies. Queer is often used as an umbrella term to describe lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, and questioning (of sexuality and/or gender identity).

Preferred: People with intersex characteristics, individuals with ambiguous sexual organs
Problematic/Outdated: Hermaphrodites
Intersex can be used when describing a person whose biological sex is ambiguous. There are many genetic, hormonal or anatomical variations that make a person’s sexual organs ambiguous (e.g., Klinefelter Syndrome). Parents and medical professionals usually assign intersex infants a sex and perform surgical procedures to conform the infant’s body to the chosen assignment.
Note: the intersex community speaks out against non-consensual, premature and unsound practices. The term intersex is not interchangeable with or a synonym for transgender.

Preferred: Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS), Gender Reaffirming Surgery, Gender Confirming Surgery
Problematic/Outdated: Sex Change
Refers to surgical alteration, and is only one small part of transition (see transition directly above on intersex characteristics). Not all transgender people choose to, or can afford to have Sexual Reassignment Surgery. Journalists and researchers should avoid overemphasizing the role of SRS in the transition process.

Women and gender

Preferred: Folks, People, You All, Y’all
Problematic/Outdated: Guys (when referring to people overall)

Preferred: Women
Problematic/Outdated: Girls (when referring to adult women)

referred: Workforce, personnel, workers
Problematic/Outdated: manpower

Preferred: Human achievements
Problematic/Outdated: man's achievements

Preferred: The average person, people in general
Problematic/Outdated: the average man

Preferred: Chairperson, chair, moderator, discussion leader
Problematic/Outdated: chairman (the head of an academic department, meeting or organization)

Preferred: First-year students
Problematic/Outdated: freshmen

Preferred: doctor, nurse, lawyer, professor, secretary
Specify gender only if relevant and/or necessary for discussion.
Avoid gender stereotyping: the secretary . . . she, the professor/supervisor . . . he

Preferred: supervisor, police officer, flight attendant, homemaker, postal worker/mail carrier
Problematic/Outdated: foreman, policeman, stewardess, housewife, mailman

Preferred: The boys chose (specify), The students behaved in the following way (specify), He did the following (specify)
Problematic: The boys chose typically male toys. The student's behavior was typically female. He acts like an old women
Being specific reduces the possibility of stereotypical bias.

Preferred: Thanks to the administrative assistants for their work on the project
Problematic: Thank the girls in the office for typing the reports

Preferred: Women's movement, feminist, supporter of women's rights
Problematic/Outdated: women's lib, women's libber

Preferred: Scientists/researchers/adminstrators are often separated from their spouses/partners when their research requires them to travel
Problematic: Scientists/researchers/adminstrators are often separated from their wives when their research . . . .

Preferred: parenting, nurturing (or specify exact behavior)
Problematic/Outdated: mothering, fathering Unless gender is specifically implied, avoid gendering a non-gendered activity

Preferred: Other Sex
Problematic/Outdated: Opposite Sex

Preferred: Children who are gender non-conforming, Children who are gender variant
Problematic/Outdated: Girlie or Tomboy

Preferred: Transgender Individual
Problematic/Outdated: Tranny

Preferred: Cisgender/Cissexual/Cis
Problematic/Outdated: Biological /Genetic/Natal/ “normal” gender

Preferred: Assigned Sex
Problematic/Outdated: Biological/Genetic/Natal/ “normal” sex

Preferred: Affirmed gender, Affirmed girl, Affirmed boy
Problematic/Outdated: “Real” Gender, “Real” Girl, “Real” Boy


--  Dealing with the Disease of Addiction? Click here for help --

More from NH1.com

NH1 News Debates
NH1 News Replay

NH1 on Twitter

NH1 SkyView Cameras

NH1 on Facebook

Check out NH1 News Rail Polls on LockerDome on LockerDome