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MLA Style Guide, 9th Edition

MLA Guidance on Inclusive Language

Chapter 3 of the MLA Handbook, 9th edition, offers new guidance on inclusive writing:

  • Ensure that all references to a person's religion, age, ethnicity, gender, or any other identity marker are relevant to the point being made. 

  • Be specific when writing about communities and avoid generalization. For example, instead of The Japanese worship... consider writing In the Shintō religion, spirits are...

  • Respect for the terms preferred by a community should be shown in writing. Some groups self-identify with person-first language (i.e., a person with alcoholism), other groups prefer to claim a specific identity first (i.e., Deaf person).

  • Be mindful of capitalization and be consistent throughout the project. Avoid quotation marks or italicization of identity terms to avoid weaking meaning.

  • Consider non-gender pronouns/terms if gender is not central to the idea expressed. For example, instead of Men and women in the job market ... try Jobseekers often find....

  • Steer clear of adjectives that suggest negativity in relation to a person or groups experience. For example, saying that Mary suffers from multiple sclerosis... implies inherent understanding of a unique situation. Instead, one could write that Mary was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis...

  • Update your dictionary! Terms that were in common usage in the past may have an offensive connotation today. Language changes over the years and words can take on new meanings. If quoting an offensive term, it is permissible to just use the first letter and a dash in lieu of the complete spelling.