Choose language intentionally

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References for Supporting diversity with a new approach to software

Who needs it the most? People who are constantly dealing with microagressions; people who understand language very literally.

Who else benefits? People who don’t want reinforce racist / sexist / ablist / etc. patterns of domination.

Content warning

Some of the examples on this page use quotes of racist, ableist, sexist, and other triggering language.

High-level recommendations

  • Ensure team members are familiar with the concept of microagression
  • Understand what people mean by terms like privilege, intersectionality, heteronormativity, cognitive diversity, structural racism (and structural sexism, ablism, ...)
  • Avoid using language with associations that are racist (e.g., "whitelist/blacklist", "master/slave"), ableist ("lame", "crazy"), sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ageist, ...
  • In situations where you do use language that is triggering (because it's racist, ableist, sexist, or oppressive in some other way; or because it refers to highly stressful events like "suicide", include content warnings
  • Use automated tools like Alex to complement code and documentation reviews in finding problematic language


University of Missouri handout on Microagressions in Everyday Life

Ableism/Language, Lʏᴅɪᴀ X. Z. Bʀᴏᴡɴ, on Autistic Hoya also has a useful section on "Non-ableist language". Violence in Language: Circling Back to Linguistic Ableism provides including how the list has evolved over time, and the goal of doing it: "Why compile it at all? Because linguistic ableism is part of the total system of ableism, and it is critical to understand how it works, how it is deployed, and how we can unlearn our social conditioning that linguistic ableism is normal and just how things are or should be."

Doing Social Justice: Thoughts on Ableist Language and Why It Matters, by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, on Disability and Representation

The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill's Gender-Inclusive Language

libuv gendered pronouns

Django primary/replica

Replace ‘suicide’ as a verb, nodejs issue and discussion