The Conscious Language Newsletter: September 2023


A Message From the Founder

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Hello, readers! After publishing this newsletter (nearly) every month since March 2015, I took a break to contemplate its future. (And to get some rest—if I’m being honest.) I came to the realization that to sustain this publication and myself, I needed to—bleah!—monetize it. So I moved The Conscious Language Newsletter to beehiiv, which has all the bells and whistles and then some. Over the coming months, you will notice tweaks to the design and content as I settle in here, maybe a few ads as well. I may eventually offer exclusive content to paid subscribers, but for now, I’m doing what I can to keep this newsletter—and all my other services—free.

Thanks for accompanying me on this ride.

P.S. Please take the poll below!

From the World of Conscious Language

Note: The authors' viewpoints are not necessarily shared by Conscious Style Guide.


What the *#@%?! How to Respond When Your Child Swears

“We are all human (and many of us swear from time to time). But we can teach children to be critical users of language, so they learn where, when and how to use different words.” Read >


Click Here: Twitter Alt Text Meme That Isn’t Funny for Blind People

“If you wouldn’t take someone’s guide cane to show off how well you can twirl it about, you absolutely shouldn’t be misusing alt text for the sake of a joke.”—Becky Brynolf, head of social media, Royal National Institute of Blind People Read >


#GirlMaths: A Seemingly Innocent and Fun Way to Justify Expenses That Can Have Serious Financial Consequences

“The term ‘girl maths’ reinforces problematic stereotypes that equate women with consumption, frivolity and extravagant spending. When stereotypes are reinforced within our own social circles, we are more likely to internalise these as part of our identity.” Read >


The Troubling Framework of the “Neo-Nazi’s Girlfriend”

“Despite [Sarah Beth Clendaniel’s] obvious ties to white power politics, the press offered misleading coverage.” Read >


Six Pregnancy Terms You Probably Won’t Hear Again, Including “High Risk” and “Failed”

“Language which infantalises pregnant women, such as ‘good girl’ or ‘you are allowed/not allowed to’ should also be avoided.” Read >


Verbal Abuse Is More Prevalent Than You Might Realize, and It’s Hurting Kids

“Self-awareness is key in preventing verbally abusive words from slipping out.” Read >


Why You Never See “Antibiotic-Free” on Chicken Packages

“The use of antibiotics in the production of animals for meat is a threat to global health…If you want to be certain you are getting as close to ‘antibiotic-free’ chicken as possible, look for a ‘raised without antibiotics’ or a ‘no antibiotics ever’ label.” Read >


Wells Brothel Owner Seeks Change in Terminology

Bella Cummins “proposed changing the designation from ‘prostitute’ to ‘courtesan,’ saying it lacks the negative connotations and has already been adopted” elsewhere. Read >


Even Lawyers Don’t Understand Legalese, New Study Shows

“In immigration proceedings, for example, ensuring that documents are ‘clear and digestible, not to mention available in multiple languages, could make a pretty big difference for many, many people,’ says Rebecca Pilar Buckwalter-Poza, an attorney and progressive advocate.” Read >


Antisemitism in Fantasy and Fairy Tales

A list of Jew-coded traits that editors and writers can look out for. Read >

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Why I Don’t Love “Jew Hate” as a Substitute for “Antisemitism”

“Ignorance about Jewish culture, history and traditions can contribute to discrimination against Jews, thus perpetuating antisemitism even when there is no hate.” Read >


I Prefer the Term “Jew Hate” to “Antisemitism”

“In my experience, the word ‘antisemitism’ simply does not convey the notion that Jew hatred represents a vicious form of bigotry.” Read >


We Need to Abolish the “Exonerative Tense” of Headlines

“Even in the best cases, the statements put out by police departments push an agenda through how they use language: the so-called past exonerative tense.” Read >


ʻAhahui Haku Moʻolelo (Hawaiian Journalists Association) and AAJA-Hawaiʻi Encourage Sensitivity and Precision in Reporting on the Devastating Lāhainā Wildfire

“Please use the term “Hawaiʻi residents” to refer to people who live in Hawaiʻi. The term ‘Hawaiian’ should only be used to refer to the islands’ Indigenous people.” Read >


Dispelling Myths Around Trans-Inclusive Language

“Trans-inclusive language is not part of some wider propaganda push to eradicate the word ‘woman’ from the English language. If anything, its purpose is to expand language, not to erase it.” Read >


Why Some Have Mixed Feelings About the Terms Asian American and AAPI

“Some South Asians and Southeast Asians have argued that Asian American is seen as synonymous with East Asian, therefore obscuring their own realities and experiences. Many Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders similarly feel that their distinct histories and challenges are erased under the AAPI umbrella.” Read >


Style & Substance: Vol. 36, No. 5: Honorifics

“Honorifics have dishonorable aspects in history. At the worst, some newspapers had a practice to use courtesy titles for white people only.” Read >


AP Style Updates: Can You Use the Term “Woke”?

“Paula Froke, AP Stylebook editor, shared updates on changing linguistic trends and clarified some points of confusion to help us all write more clearly.” Read >

CSG in the News

Editing as Worldmaking: Critical Generosity in Editorial Practice

“Our work does not stand apart from the texts we edit or how those texts move around in the world. Approaching both with critical generosity is key to building the worlds we want to inhabit.” Read >

How AI Can Address Media Bias in Web Hosting and Website Building

“There is no tool that can guarantee a website is providing the most equitable and encompassing experience possible—this is something web designers must learn and ascertain for themselves.” Read >

How to Ask Sensitive Questions in Surveys

“It’s always a good idea to be transparent about why you’re asking a personal or sensitive question. Starting any questions about age, race, religion, or sexual orientation with a phrase such as ‘For demographic purposes…’ is an easy way to start off on the right foot.” Read >

New and Notable on CSG

Muslim Media Toolkit: Shifting the Narrative

“According to media content analysis, more than 80 percent of television media coverage of Islam and Muslims in the United States is negative…This toolkit was produced as a starting point for journalists looking to improve coverage of Muslims in the media.” Visit Spirituality, Religion + Atheism >

Books Without Barriers: A Practical Guide to Inclusive Publishing

Books Without Barriers, written and designed by members of IPEd’s Accessibility Initiative Working Party, “outlines the barriers to reading that people with print disability may experience if their needs are not supported, and describes how to avoid creating these barriers at each stage of the publishing process.” Visit Ability + Disability >

From the Archives

Why We Confuse “Race” and “Ethnicity”: A Lexicographer’s Perspective

On our evolving understandings of racial categorization and cultural identity. Read >

In Case You Missed It

In the March 2023 newsletter…

  • Should We Stop Using the Term “Natural Disaster”?

  • How "Ma’am" Went From Being a Respectful Word for Some—but Polarizing for Others

  • No, My Japanese American Parents Were Not “Interned” During WWII. They Were Incarcerated.

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 how context can support sensitive content, with a focus on children's books and teen lit.

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. Hand-printed to order in your choice of shirt color, ink color, and style (fitted or straight-cut). 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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