The Conscious Language Newsletter: January 2024

Tips on arguing, apologizing, and having difficult conversations.


From the World of Conscious Language

Note: The authors' viewpoints are not necessarily shared by CSG.


Museum Classifies Roman Emperor as Trans—but Modern Labels Oversimplify Ancient Gender Identities

“To attempt to crudely ascribe modern labels to ancient figures such as Elagabalus is not only to strip them of their agency, but also to oversimplify what is a wonderfully, fabulously broad and nuanced subject.” Read >


How to Argue in Front of Your Kids in a Way That’s Actually Healthy, According to an Expert

“Teaching our kids how to disagree in a healthy and respectful way will help them not only in the short term but ultimately help determine how they speak with their partner in future relationships.” Read >


How the Word “Voodoo” Became a Racial Slur

“When someone makes a statement like, ‘That just sounds like some “voodoo” to me!’ they are co-signing the long racist history of the term and promoting the idea that religions from Africa are primitive, evil and barbaric.” Read >


What Is the Bechdel Test?

“Keeping [the Bechdel test] in mind will help direct your attention to issues that might not be obvious in your early drafts.” Read >


Plain Language Is Key to DEI in Academe

“We are not suggesting that everything we write as academics needs to be in plain language…But we do believe it could be of great use in higher education—including in making our work, and our students’ future work, more accessible to the public, where it may have a much greater impact.” Read >


Don’t Call Me “Old”: Avoiding Ageism When Writing About Aging

“Use ‘we’ and ‘us’ instead of ‘they’ and ‘them’ when appropriate. We are all aging, and many issues that affect older adults also affect younger populations.” Read >


A Guide to Difficult Conversations for People Who Hate Confrontation

“Left unaddressed, even minor concerns can brew into resentment, anger, and depression.” Read >


Why Parents Give Their Children a Last Name Other Than the Father’s

“When you’re talking about what last name should the baby have, you’re talking about tradition, you’re talking about feminism, you’re talking about your values and politics.”—Lorelei Vashti, author, How to Choose Your Baby’s Last Name: A Handbook for New Parents Read >


I’m a Reporter and I Know Why Talking About Climate Change Makes Local TV News Nervous

“Reporters and meteorologists cannot let themselves be silenced by the fear of a loud minority. Unless it sounds like someone is truly interested in a civil discussion, best to just ignore the comments.” Read >

Available for Preorder

The cover of "The Conscious Style Guide: A Flexible Approach to Language That Includes, Respects, and Empowers" is centered on a square graphic divided diagonally into white and gold halves. Text below reads: "Publishing May 28, 2024." The blurb above reads: "A tremendous resource, affirming and instructive." Paula Froke, editor of The Associated Press Stylebook


How to Talk to Kids About War, Crime and Violence: An Age-by-Age Guide

“Avoid negative labels like ‘bad guys’ and ‘evil,’ because they’re not helpful and may fuel more fear. Instead, you can talk about people being unwell and making bad decisions.” Read >


Why Doctors and Nurses Should Use More Plain Language and Less Jargon

“The onus should be on the healthcare provider, rather than the healthcare recipient, to make sure that they are communicating in a clear manner.” Read >


Study: Breaking Gender Stereotypes Leads to More Effective Communication

“It’s not just about whether people should apologize more or less, but how we can construct apologies differently.” Read >


A New Tool Helps Disabled People Track—and Shape—Laws That Impact Them

New Disabled South’s Plain Language Policy Dashboard makes the language of bills more accessible and covers fourteen states in the U.S. Read >


Children Face Unequal Treatment in the Classroom—With Devastating Consequences

“Students often receive feedback that conveys expectations linked to their socioeconomic background.” Read >


5 Reasons News Stories About Research Need Source Diversity

“Journalists might not always realize source diversity is equally important in stories about science and research. In some ways, it’s more crucial.” Read >


Students in This Course Learn the Art of the Apology

“A good apology…offers a reset, restoring balance or repairing a rupture. A really good apology might even strengthen the relationship between the offender and the offended.” Read >


Why Age Bias Has Real World Health Effects

Studies show that “when people constantly hear negative messages about being older, they start to internalize them and begin believing them.” Read >

New and Notable on CSG

Why “Openly Gay” Is an Offensive Term

“By accepting being labeled ‘openly,’ we are doing ourselves a disservice, allowing the dangerous lie that being LGBTQ+ is something to be ashamed of to be reinforced.” Visit Gender, Sex + Sexuality >

From the Archives

The False Divide Between “Well Educated” and “Less Educated”

“Some of the richest people in the world are ‘less educated,’ including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.” Read >

In Case You Missed It

In the November/December 2023 newsletter…

  • Parents Are Sharing the Parenting Clichés They Wish Would Disappear, and It’s Hard to Disagree With Them

  • Hollywood Is Still Portraying Latinos With the Same Tired Stereotypes

  • After Tackling “R-Word,” Disability Group Seeks to Erase Stigma Associated With “Special”

Stuff to Buy

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Photo by Uni-T.

You Need This T-Shirt! Play, work, and sleep in the super soft “Make Peace With Words” T-shirt. Choose from a variety of colors. (Sizes: Fitted shirts available in XXS through XXL, and straight-cut shirts available in XS through XXL.) Hand-printed with love. Your purchase supports two small businesses owned by women of color. Why make peace? Read the article!

Shop for Diverse Picture Books: On (my storefront), find exceptional picture books that spread understanding, compassion, and joy through diverse representation.

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Other Resources

Join Our Online Community: Are you on Facebook? Join the Conscious Language + Design Facebook Group to learn, share, and chat with others who are curious or serious about conscious language.

Find Editors of Color: The Editors of Color Database helps recruiters connect with editors, proofreaders, and sensitivity readers of color in the U.S. and Canada. You can submit job listings for distribution to our private network and explore the 100+ resources in Diverse Databases, which highlights underrepresented groups. Diversify your sources now!

Get More Tips on Instagram: Follow @ConsciousStyleGuide for examples of context that supports sensitive content.

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