Dalhousie University - Inspiring Minds


Race, Religion and Diverse Groups

Dal follows Canadian Press Stylebook guidelines for inclusive language. It is important we are aware of sensitivities when identifying age, colour, creed, nationality, personal appearance, religion, sex and disabilities.

Aboriginal Peoples

  • In Canada, there are status (or reserve) Indians, non-status Indians (living outside reserves), Métis and Inuit.

  • The Canadian Press uses uppercase for Aboriginal Peoples, which includes all Indian, Métis and Inuit people in Canada.

  • First Nations is uppercase.

  • Use Indian with discretion. Some people object to it because it originated with the European explorers' misconception that they had landed in India. Others, especially status Indians, prefer it to be used.

Names of races

  • Capitalize the proper names of nationalities, peoples, races and tribes:
     - Aboriginal Peoples, Arab, Caucasian, Jew, French-Canadian, Inuit, Latin, Asian, Cree.

  • Note that black and white do not name races and are lowercase.

  • The term black is acceptable in all references in Canada and the United States. In the United States, African-American is also used; in Canada African-Canadian is used by some people but not by others.

  • There is usually no need to use hyphenated descriptions such as Polish-Canadian or Jamaican-Canadian, given they may put an inappropriate emphasis on the person’s ethnic background. But these descriptions can be used if the individual prefers and it is relevant.

Gay, lesbian, transgender

  • A person's sexual orientation should be not mentioned unless relevant to the story.

  • Gay and lesbian are the preferred terms to describe people attracted to the same sex; homosexual is considered offensive by some.

  • Use sexual orientation, not sexual preference.

  • Don't refer to a gay lifestyle and avoid admitted homosexual; use openly gay or openly lesbian, but only if necessary for clarity.

  • Transgender describes people whose sexual identity is different from their sex at birth, even if they have not changed their bodies through medical treatment.


  • Treat the sexes equally and without stereotyping. A woman's marital or family status – single, married, divorced, grandmother – is pertinent only to explain a personal reference or to round out a profile. The test always is: Would this information be used if the subject were a man?

  • Never assume that a family of four is a man, a woman, and two children.

  • Never assume that a couple is a man and a woman.

  • Referring to a woman as attractive or leggy is inappropriate, as is referring to a man as studly or well-muscled.

  • When writing in general terms prefer police officer or constable to policeman, firefighter to fireman, mail carrier to mailman, flight attendant to stewardess.

  • Some readers find the use of he (him, his) as a word of common or indeterminate gender to be sexist. His or her and the like can be used but may prove awkward. In that case reword the sentence if possible. Instead of: "Whoever is promoted will have $50 added to his or her pay," write: "Whoever is promoted will get a $50 raise." As a last resort, they (them, their) is an increasingly acceptable alternative to he (him, his).


  • Be accurate, clear and sensitive when describing a person with a disability or illness and mention it only if it is pertinent.

  • While it is important to be specific for clarity, there are also some terms that may be used in the scientific community that are not as acceptable in casual use.
     - "Mentally retarded" is a valid clinical description, yet many dislike it because of the schoolyard insults associated with the term. Avoid use of this term.

  • Don't define people by their disorders:
     - the disabled
     - the blind
     - the handicapped