The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages the use of inclusive, anti-biased language in all of its publications and communications in order to mitigate and combat bias, avoid stereotypes, remove stigma, and promote justice and strengths. The use of inclusive, anti-biased language is consistent with the AAP Diversity and Inclusion statement and supports the Academy’s Equity Agenda by reflecting diverse lived experiences and acknowledging the oppressive systems, structures, and policies that create those experiences. Language has the power to change minds, hearts, behaviors, and relationships and to create narratives that shape our perceptions and beliefs. Thus, it is important to carefully consider language when developing AAP content to convey messages and propose solutions that promote diversity, foster inclusion, and advance equity. Language should recognize the inherent value in each individual, and mitigate the harm perpetrated upon communities that have been marginalized and socially, politically, and economically disadvantaged. Using inclusive language invites people in for discussion, instead of working off biases and excluding those you may wish to engage.
This document is intended to provide guidance for authors, editors, presenters, media spokespersons, and other content contributors; it is not intended to be prescriptive, exhaustive, or used as a single authoritative source for specific terminology. Every effort should be made to determine what is most appropriate for the topic, type, and purpose of the communication. However, there will be variations in how individuals self-identify and prefer to be referenced. Individuals within groups may have different preferences, and preferences may also change over time. Inclusive, anti-biased language honors the rights of groups and individuals to define their own identities. Content creators should consider the target audience when choosing language and framing and should consult with individuals/groups to ask how they wish to be identified. This may include consulting reliable self-advocacy groups and/or resources developed by organizations representing the communities being discussed. Despite thoughtful consideration, the most carefully chosen words may have an unintended (and negative) impact, depending on the connotation to the audience. However, using anti-biased, inclusive language will help clarify the intent, hopefully mitigating negative impacts.
Lastly, not only do words matter, but so does context – both social and situational. It is important to note that words do not exist in a vacuum. They are contextualized by history, politics, social position, geography, and other variables. Recognizing that these factors are dynamic, so too is language. For example, terms that may be acceptable in some places may carry a different, sometimes offensive, meaning in other places; or terms used within certain groups may take on a different meaning when used by those outside of the group – especially when those using it are part of a dominant social group.
The AAP recognizes that dialogue about terminology is ongoing and there often is not universal agreement about specific terms and their definitions. Vocabulary continually evolves. This is a working document that will be continuously updated as recommendations for suggested terminology evolve. The AAP encourages content creators to practice cultural humility and engage in ongoing dialogue and learning to increase their understanding of inclusive, anti-biased terminology. Using cultural humility can help people reflect when their words have an impact other than what was intended and allow language to continually evolve as we learn more.
The following guidance includes strategies that can be used to make content more inclusive and enable rather than disempower people and groups.