Inclusive and Gender-Neutral Language

AP Stylebook: Gender-neutral language

All genders vs. both genders

Because there are many different gender identities, avoid using binary language that indicates there are only two. Use all genders instead of both genders, opposite sex, or either sex. If referring only to sex, use female, male, or intersex.

Breastfeeding, chestfeeding

The term chestfeeding or bodyfeeding can be used alongside breastfeeding to be more inclusive. Nonbinary or trans people may not align with the term breastfeeding because of their gender or may have a dysphoric relationship to their anatomy. Chestfeeding will not replace the word breastfeeding, or nursing, but it should be included as an option when discussing lactation.

Breastfeed (v.) is one word, as is breastfed (adj.).

Chair, chairperson vs. chairman, chairwoman

AP Stylebook: Chair

Use chair instead of chairman or chairwoman. This is a divergence from the HHS Style Guide.

Everyone vs. ladies and gentlemen or men and women

Avoid unnecessarily gendered language. There are ways to be gender-neutral and inclusive. You could use everyone or all instead of men and women and distinguished guests or folks instead of ladies and gentlemen.

Parent, parenting, caregiving vs. mothering

Avoid language that assumes the mother is the primary parent or caregiver. Use parenting instead of mothering unless referring specifically to a mother-child relationship. You can also use caregivers and caregiving to be inclusive of non-parents in caregiving roles.

Many practices recommended in pregnancy to women/pregnant people can also be directed to fathers/non-pregnant partners. Too often, the burden of prenatal care and establishing healthy habits are directed only at the pregnant person, when a partner can also play an important role.

Police officer vs. policeman

Use police officer instead of policeman. This same rule applies generally: postal worker, firefighter, etc.

Pregnant women, pregnant people

AP Stylebook: Pregnant women, pregnant people

Both pregnant women and pregnant people are acceptable phrases. It is not always necessary to avoid the word women by substituting phrases like birthing people, or people with uteruses, especially in public health content. Gender neutral terms like pregnant patients, pregnant people, birth parent, or other wording as applicable (e.g., pregnant teens), present an inclusive alternatives. Use judgement and context to determine whether to use pregnant womenpregnant people, pregnant patients, or other inclusive descriptors. Specific phrasing like people with uteruses can be helpful when writing NOFOs or advertising studies to ensure only eligible participants are enrolled for the specific research conducted.

Using more limited and specific language is sometimes important. For instance, if discussing a study that only involves pregnant cisgender women, gender-specific language (pregnant women) would be most accurate to reference that study’s findings. If the word women is preferable, but transgender and nonbinary people are also referenced, phrasing like women and other pregnant patients can provide an inclusive alternative.

Spokesperson vs. spokesman

Use spokesperson instead of spokesman. This guidance diverges from the HHS Style Guide.

This page last reviewed on January 17, 2024