Checklist: Diversity and Language

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It's not enough to say something, it is as well important, how you say it. In a call for application, in working texts in reports or promotion texts for public audiences we represent our values, and culture - as well as our stereotypes, presumptions or limitations. Therefore we want to motivate you, to use language precisely.


Handbook: Diversity


H. Fahrun, E. Skowron,
N. Zimmermann

Diversity Dynamics: Activating the Potential of Diversity in Trainings

A Handbook for Facilitators MitOst editions 2015: Read


In English there is no grammatical gender of nouns so there usually aren’t male- and female-specific words for different occupations, roles etc. But what language do we use when we’re telling a story and do not want to reveal the gender of the characters in it?


This guide, initially a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University, brings together definitions and information from more than two dozen style guides, journalism organizations and other resources. It contains more than 700 terms related to race/ethnicity, disability, immigration, sexuality and gender identity, drugs and alcohol, and geography


How can we avoid the personal pronouns “he” and “she” or possessive pronouns such as “his” or “hers”? Do the words "someone" or "one" always refer to a male?



If a student studies hard, he will succeed.

If a student studies hard, they will succeed.
Students who study hard will succeed.

Give the student his grade right away.

Give the student their grades right away.

He might wonder what his response should be.

One might wonder what one’s response should be.

When everyone contributes his own ideas, the discussion will be a success.

When everyone contributes their own ideas, the discussion will be a success.

When all the participants contribute their own ideas, the discussion will be a success.


Identify men, women and other middle sexes in the same way. Diminutive or special forms to name women are usually unnecessary and often sexist:




man’s achievements

humanity, human beings

human achievements


chair/chair person


police officer


flight attendant



male nurse


No evaluation

Treat women and men in a parallel manner to keep writing gender-fair.



The steward seated Mr. Clinton and his lovely wife Hillary.

The flight attendant seated Mr. and Mrs. Clinton.

Miss, Mrs.

Courtesy titles that label a woman in regard to her relationship to a man (her marital status)trivialize women.


Marital status

Treat people regardless of their status. Being married or having children is no question of moral superiority.



He proved to be a very reliable man although he is divorced.

He proved to be a very reliable man.

Divorce as such is not related to his personal qualities.

Martha is 44, unmarried and has no children. It is amazing, how she tries to compensate those holes in her life with work and hobbies.

Martha is 44, unmarried and has no children. She is very busy with her work and hobbies.

The fact, that she is unmarried and has no children does not necessarily mean, that she failed at something or that she suffers because of that.

Physical Ability

Identify disabled and able-bodied people in the same way. Using patronizing language or giving more credit to disabled people is a sign of stigmatization and describing their reality not from their points of view:



Poor Anna. But she is such a happy person despite her disability!

Anna is such a happy person Anna has a cheerful personality

Gülan loves going to movies, especially Woody Allen and Monty Python. She is blind, but she likes to go to them anyway. How does this young woman without sight cope with her life?

Revised version: None.

For many people, disability is a part of their lives that they accept and understand = simply and without bravery.

Sulyana is 1,30 meters tall, suffers from brittle bone disorder and is a victim of her disability.

Sulyana has/lives with brittle bone disorder.

Most people deny that their disability means constant suffering. They do not want to be seen as victims.

Vadim is confined to a wheelchair.

Vadim needs/uses a wheelchair.

Sexual orientation

Deriving certain personal characteristics based on people’s sexual orientation is a sign of bias. Additionally, using examples based on heterosexual orientation only reinforces society’s normative images.



He wears clothes that don’t match and has a bad taste despite the fact that he is gay.

He wears clothes that don’t match and his taste is different than mine. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with the topic.

For example Robert has a girlfriend and he is not happy in this relationship.

For example Robert has a partner and he is not happy in this relationship.


There ist no need to associate specific behavior with a certain age.



He makes so many plans for the future even though he is already 80 years old!

He is 80 years old and makes many plans for the future.

Skin color

If characteristics are not relevant for the story, there is no need to mention them.



He is a very nice person for a black guy.

He is a very nice person.

Last time I had three black participants in the seminar and it was about ecology.

Last time I had a training about ecology