Writers write words to express, entertain, inspire, escape, empathize, honor, inform, persuade, profit, debate, overcome trauma, and more. But when we write words for readers, whatever our purposes or intentions, the effect is influence. We have the power to influence those who read our words, and with great power comes you know what. You get to decide what you do with that power, if anything; I’m just providing some style resources in case you choose to wield that power responsibly.
The resources below are great but imperfect, because language evolves and can be less or more harmful given different context, geography, or other factors. Additional research might be necessary. To keep these resources handy, either bookmark this page or create a “Responsible Style Guides” browser folder where you can drop these and any other resources you come across.
A Progressive’s Style Guide This 2016 guide was written by Hanna Thomas of SumOfUs.org and Anna Hirsch of ActivistEditor.com and touches on categories that the other more comprehensive style guides listed here don’t, including housing and incarceration.
ConsciousStyleGuide.com This website curates relevant resources for a variety of categories.
GLAAD Media Reference Guide 10th Edition “GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide is intended to be used by journalists reporting for mainstream media outlets and by creators in entertainment media who want to tell LGBTQ people’s stories fairly and accurately. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive glossary of language used within the LGBTQ community, nor is it a prescriptive guide for LGBTQ people.”
Autistic Hoya’s glossary of ableist phrases last updated in 2021. Context is provided, and alternatives are offered.
Disability Language Style Guide last revised in 2018 by the National Center on Disability and Journalism, is also available in Spanish and Romanian.) Also see Terms to Avoid When Writing About Disability
The Diversity Style Guide “The Diversity Style Guide is a resource to help journalists and other media professionals cover a complex, multicultural world with accuracy, authority and sensitivity. This guide, 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.”
Use the Right Words: Media Reporting on Sexual Violence in Canada, published in 2015 by feminesto.ca, team members being Sasha Elford, Shannon Giannitsopoulou, Farrah Khan, and Faria Abbas. This is an excellent resource for those writing about sexual violence outside of Canada as well.
A Guide to Non-binary Pronouns and Why They Matter, by Sassafras Lowrey, published 2017 by HuffPost.
Trans Journalists Association Style Guide is a collaborative living document.
Author L.A. Lanquist’s glossary of trans terminology is a living document that he is still adding to. I also recommend his series of blog posts Trans-Writing.)
Acephobia, Allosexuality, and What it Means to be Queer, published in 2017 by Ren Drincic on Medium.
A Copy Editor’s Education in Indigenous Style, by Tara Campbell, published in 2019 by The Tyee. This article contains links to free and paid resources for writing about Indigenous peoples in the land stolen from them referred to as Canada, and you can find similar guide resources relating to writing about the first peoples in other countries by Googling accordingly. With respect to Canada, I’ve heard several writers recommended Elements of Indigenous Style by Gregory Younging, may he have kiyâmêwisiwin, of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
Sex Work Style Guide, by Mistress Matisse, published in 2017 by WhoresOfYore.com. “Whores of Yore is a sex-positive, inter-disciplinary, research project and archive, dedicated to exploring the history of human sexuality and challenging shame and stigma.”
Big thank you to author and editor Andrea Bennett, whose workshop on anti-oppressive copyediting I highly recommend. They gave me permission to add from their list of resources to mine.
This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. So many great blogs to keep hopping through. Click here to join the hop and to see what other writing tips you can glean from this month’s edition.
Can you recommend any additional resources? Are there any word choices you’ve had to research in the past or ones you’re struggling with right now? Share in the comments!