Writing about people

This page hasn't been updated for Beta findings.

Mailchimp style guide recommendations

This style guide was recommended in Alpha. We discussed this topic again in Beta and will be updating this page to fully reflect that discussion. For now we have removed some guidance that didn't sync with that discussion.

All the below is from https://styleguide.mailchimp.com/writing-about-people:

"We write the same way we build apps: with a person-first perspective. Whether you’re writing for an internal or external audience, it's important to write for and about other people in a way that’s compassionate, inclusive, and respectful. Being aware of the impact of your language will help make MailChimp a better place to work and a better steward of our values in the world. In this section we'll lay out some guidelines for writing about people with compassion, and share some resources for further learning.


Don’t reference a person’s age unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing. If it is relevant, include the person’s specific age, offset by commas. For example, "The CEO, 16, just got her driver’s license."

Don’t refer to people using age-related descriptors like “young,” “old,” or “elderly.”


When writing about a person with disabilities, don’t use the words “suffer,” “victim,” or “handicapped.”

Gender and sexuality

Don’t call groups of people “guys.” Don’t call women “girls.”

Avoid gendered terms in favour of neutral alternatives, like “businessperson” instead of “businessman.”

If you are referring to a known person who identifies as male or female, use ‘she’, ‘her’, ‘he’ ‘his’ etc freely. Otherwise use ‘they’, ‘their’ etc.

When writing about a person, use their communicated pronouns. When in doubt, just ask or use their name.


Use “deaf” as an adjective to describe a person with significant hearing loss. You can also use “partially deaf” or “hard of hearing.”

Heritage and nationality

Don't use hyphens when referring to someone with dual heritage or nationality. For example, use "Asian American" instead of "Asian-American."


Do not refer to a person’s medical, mental or cognitive condition unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing.


Use the adjective “blind” to describe a person who is unable to see. Use “low vision” to describe a person with limited vision."

Source: https://styleguide.mailchimp.com/writing-about-people/

Usability evidence from Beta

GOV.UK Inclusive language: words to use and avoid when writing about disability, 2018

Scope 'The social model of disability', 2018

'Disability is not a dirty word: Moving away from "special needs"', 2018

US government on inclusive language, 2017

'A disability is a mismatch between a person’s abilities and their environment', 2016

'The Conscious Style Guide: How to talk about people with inclusive and tactful language', 2016

Mailchimp style guide, 2015

GOV.UK on inclusive communication, 2015

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