AP Styleguide: Inclusive storytelling

The English language is always evolving. In the last two years, the Associated Press Stylebook has made numerous updates around inclusive language. We’re highlighting some of the recent changes to use in future storytelling, below:

Disabilities: If individual or group preferences can’t be determined, use a mix of identity-first language and person-first language. As always, AP recommends referring to a person’s disability only when relevant to the story; being specific about what the disability is; and asking a person’s preference about language. In addition to overview guidance, AP added or revised 35 disabilities-related entries throughout the book in the last two years.

Climate change: Use the term climate change when generally referring to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns, and the science explaining or describing those shifts. These shifts have resulted in both slow-onset and extreme weather events.

Slow-onset changes include increasing temperatures, loss of biodiversity, land and forest degradation, desertification (the change of arable land into a desert), ocean acidification, sea level rise, and glacial retreat. Extreme weather includes heat waves, droughts, storms and floods from heavy rain or rising seas.

The terms climate crisis and climate emergency are used by some scientists, policymakers and others, and are acceptable in that context.

Global warming: Use the term global warming in referring to the increase of average temperature around the world. It is one aspect of climate change. Do not use this term as a synonym for climate change.

Immigration, migration: Greatly expanded and revised, including discussion of language such as crisis and guidance to avoid imagery conjuring war or natural disaster such as onslaught, tidal wave, flood, inundation, invasion, army, march, sneak and stealth. Also, 20 new or revised individual entries, including refugees, asylum-seekers, “catch and release,” expulsions, deportations, pushbacks, birthright citizenship, sanctuaries, “Dreamers” and more.

Immigrants vs. migrants

Immigrants generally are people who move to a different country with the intention of settling there. This term, rather than migrants, is most commonly used for people established in the U.S., which usually is their final destination. It also is used when another specific country is the final destination. For example: British immigration statistics show how many people settled in the country last year.

Migrants generally are people who are on the move, sometimes for economic reasons, either within one country or across borders. The term is generally preferred over immigrant in Europe, Africa, the Mideast and Asia, where a person’s destination country may be undecided or in flux.

The term migrant also may be used for those whose reason for leaving their home country is not clear, or to cover people who may also be refugees or asylum-seekers.

Race-related coverage: AP now has entries on critical race theory and historically Black colleges and universities, and new guidance on Arab Americans.

The Native Americans, American Indians section now notes that the term Natives is acceptable on second reference, and adds entries including Indian Country and tribal affiliation. It changes the preferred spelling to tipi, rather than teepee.

dual heritage: No hyphen for terms such as African American, Asian American and Filipino American, used when relevant to refer to an American person’s heritage. The terms are less common when used to describe non-Americans, but may be used when relevant: Turkish German for a German of Turkish descent. For terms denoting dual citizenship, use the hyphen: a dual U.S.-Australian citizen.

Gender, sex and sexual orientation: AP has more than 25 new or revised entries under one umbrella including transgender, nonbinary, gender identity, sexual identity, gender expression, gender-fluid, gender-fluidity, genderqueer, gender dysphoria.

Coronavirus: Updates in that entry, along with separate entries including anti-vaxxer (don’t use the term); antiviral, antivirus; epidemic, pandemic, endemic; superspreader; vaccine, vaccination.

Limit use of community in reference to groups of people, because it implies homogeneity.

Pregnant women or pregnant girls, or women seeking abortions/girls seeking abortions, is acceptable phrasing. Phrasing like pregnant people or people seeking abortions is also acceptable to include minors or people who have those experiences but do not identify as women, such as some transgender men and some nonbinary people. Use judgment and decide what is most appropriate in a given story. Do not use overly clinical language.

University faculty and staff have AP Style resources available from Libraries. We also recommend following AP Stylebook on Twitter for real-time updates to the stylebook.