Terms for Inclusive Language and Imagery

[From the April 24, 1990 Courier with Board of Governors emendations]

At its April 11, 1992 meeting Senate approved the proposed Policy Statement and Guidelines on University
Communications developed by the President’s Executive Committee in conjunction with the Employment Equity

The approved Policy Statement on Inclusive Communications states:

“McMaster is committed to the use of inclusive language and imagery in all University communications.
“The use of language or visual material that may bias perceptions by excluding or stereotyping individuals or
groups is unacceptable. This policy is in keeping with McMaster’s commitment to promoting a place of work and
study that is free of discrimination and harassment.
“All new materials must be prepared in accordance with this policy. All existing documents, publications and
visual materials originated by the University must be reviewed as they are updated and revised as necessary to
conform to this policy. This process must be completed by December 1992.”

The introduction to Guidelines on University Communications explains that it is “intended as a resource to assist
the students and employees of McMaster in developing an approach to written, oral and visual communication
that is accurate and free of bias.”

It then lists the following series of general guidelines designed to ensure that communications generated by
the University do not “stereotype or exclude.”

Titles of Address

Designations of sex and marital status (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms), for example, on forms, in correspondence or minutes, are often unnecessary in addressing or referring to individuals and should be omitted, unless specified by the individual or called for by the situation. First name or initial and last name should be used.
When it is appropriate to use academic titles they should be used in a parallel and consistent manner. For example, use "Dr. Smith and Prof. Jones" or "J. Smith and H. Jones" rather than "Dr. Smith and H. Jones."
Generic forms of address commonly used in correspondence or oral presentations include "colleague," "associate," "members," "faculty," "staff," "students."

Occupational Titles

Job titles should describe the role or responsibility of the position, not the sex of the incumbent.
For example, "firefighter," "custodian," "mail carrier." The use of the words "man" or "woman" as suffixes (for example, "foreman") reinforces occupational stereotypes and should be avoided.


Since the English language lacks a singular pronoun that is gender-neutral, the masculine pronoun has traditionally been used to refer to a neutral noun. However, the generic use of masculine pronouns is exclusionary, confusing and ambiguous.
Preferred alternatives include repetition of the noun, the use of the plural nouns and pronouns, rewording to eliminate the reference to sex, or the use of double or alternate pronouns (for example, "hers/his").


The use of prefixes, suffixes, words or expressions that exclude or stereotype individuals or groups should be eliminated and inclusive terms substituted. For example, "Level I student" should be substituted for "freshman"; likewise, "given name" for "Christian name."

Word Order

Masculine nouns and pronouns commonly precede the feminine equivalent (for example, "husband and wife," "his and hers"). It is preferable to alternate word order.


Visual materials should not consistently exclude representation of women, Native people, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities.
Members of all groups should be depicted with equal dignity. Members of the designated group should be portrayed at all levels of authority and participation, and not in stereotyped roles or activities.

Note: (1) Senate passed a separate resolution to use the word "chair" instead or "chairman" in all University communications on Jan. 10, 1990.
(2) Academic titles are used in the Times for all faculty members, but the preceeding guidelines do not dictate that other forms of address, such as "Mr.," "Mrs.," Miss," "Ms" etc., must be used. The point the guide is making is that academic titles should be kept parallel.