As a university, we are committed to building an environment of mutual respect and inclusion, where we value all individuals for who they are and what they can contribute. To achieve this goal, all community members should have the language they need to communicate respectfully and inclusively. This resource provides guidance to ensure all conversations and messages across our university are grounded in empowerment of community members of all backgrounds and experiences. This guide provides education on respectful terminology and language use to maximize inclusion for all at The Chicago School. As a note, this guide does not discuss identity-based academic disciplines (e.g., queer theory), but rather, is focused on language use in communications and messaging.

This resource was created in a collaborative effort among team members from Marketing, Communications, Advancement, Student Support, the Diversity Action Board, the Office of Disability Services, and many other teams. This group conducted significant background research to gather expertise from leaders in this field.

In addition to the identity-specific guidance provided, The Chicago School community commits to the following principles on inclusive language:
  • When in doubt, ask. Each community member has a unique lived experience and  intersectional identities. Thus, the terminology outlined here may carry different meanings for different people. If you’re unsure of what terminology is most appropriate, ask someone what would make them feel most comfortable. However, please be mindful of the fact that one person’s stated language preferences should not be automatically accepted as the preference of their entire community.
  • Emphasize person-first language. Defer to person-first language (e.g., “person formerly in prison”) instead of identity-first language (e.g., “convict”), unless directed otherwise in specific situations. This centers the person as a whole, rather than a single attribute about them.
  • Guidance will evolve over time. Language changes in meaning and impact over the course of time. Terminology that was once considered appropriate may now be considered offensive. This resource will be a living document that evolves alongside changing understanding of identity-related language.

This guide outlines clear guidance around terminology to use, avoid, and the rationale for that guidance. Some terminology to avoid includes clearly offensive language – rather than offend community members with the content of this guide, these words and terms are included to explain why some words are insensitive to others and to recognize legacy use of terms that are now deemed slurs or otherwise offensive.
Before drafting your communications, please think critically about your messaging and your drafting process. You can refer to the guiding questions below from NYU to start this thought process.
  • Who are the stakeholders for this communication? How can we include these stakeholders in the drafting process?
  • Have I done thorough research on the content I am sharing? Did I consult everyone I should consult for feedback?
  • Within the context of my message, is the language I am planning to use as inclusive and respectful as possible?
  • Who will be centered within this message and are they named accurately and directly?
  • How should I reflect intersectionality within my message?

Within conversations around inclusive language, please keep the following guidance from Colorado State University in mind. “It is important to remember that all individuals have the right to identify with language that captures who they are and makes them feel welcome.”
If you have any questions about the content included here, please reach out using this form
Please explore the sections at left​ for an overview of how to communicate inclusively regarding each of these different identities.