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Race and National Origin
Avoid using Black and White as standalone nouns. Instead of Blacks, use Black people, etc.
Capitalize all references to race, including White. This is a divergence from AP style. Writing white in the lowercase could give the impression that it is the default, neutral, or a standard. The capital letter for a racial identity is not intended to elevate, but to situate. NIH follows the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standard and capitalizes all references to race equally.
Avoid collective reference to racial and ethnic minority groups as non-White unless it was a formal category in a database or research document. Instead, indicate the specific groups.
Avoid using race/ethnicity because the slash implies that these are interchangeable terms. Instead use race and ethnicity or race or ethnicity, as appropriate.
Include context when writing about race and other people-related language. Populations should be described specifically whenever possible, and we should not default to using minorities or racial and ethnic groups when writing about specific populations. If the language cannot be made more specific (e.g., Black Americans, Asian Americans), then writing racial and ethnic minority groups is preferred over minorities alone; there are also sexual and gender minority communities, etc. See also: minoritized populations.
If race is pertinent to the story, ask your source for their preference on what term(s) to use.
If data on race and ethnicity will be reported, please contact the Office of Equity Diversity and Inclusion for the officially recognized Ethnicity and Race Indicator categories.
Alaska Native (Aleuts, Eskimos, Indians of Alaska), Alaskan
An Alaska Native (not Alaskan Native) is a person whose origins are in any of the original peoples of Alaska and who maintains cultural identification through Tribal affiliation or community attachment. An Alaskan is anyone who was born in Alaska or who is a long-term resident of Alaska.
American Indian / Alaska Native
Asian, Asian American
A person whose origins are in any of the original populations of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, Bangladesh, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Do not use the word oriental.
Use specific terms whenever possible. If race is pertinent to the story, ask your source for their preference on what term(s) to use. Do not hyphenate Asian American or other dual-heritage terms.
AAPI, which stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, is an acronym widely used by people within these communities but may not be familiar to readers outside of them; spell out the full term and define when used in quotations.
BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, people of color. It is a U.S. term intended to center the experiences of Black and Indigenous people and demonstrate solidarity between communities of color. Some argue that the term can also blur the differences between the two groups it is meant to center. Always use specific racial terms (e.g., Black or Indigenous) on their own instead of BIPOC if applicable; BIPOC should not be used when referring to an individual or an issue that affects a specific group of people.
Biracial, multiracial, of mixed race
A person who has parents or ancestors of different racial backgrounds. Some consider using mixed alone to be stigmatizing, while others claim the term positively. Mixed race is used frequently in academia and elsewhere, though some say it has stigmatizing potential.
Black and African American
An African American is a person whose origins are in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. If appropriate, specific terms such as Kenyan or Nigerian may also be used. Black is broader and more inclusive than African American; someone within your target audience could be born in Jamaica and live in the U.S. and identify as Black but not African American. Use of the capitalized Black recognizes that language has evolved and, especially in the United States, the term reflects a shared identity and culture beyond skin color.
When discussing scientific data, use the term that was used when the research (the source of the data) was being conducted. Capitalize the word Black when referring to race. Do not hyphenate African American or other dual-heritage terms.
Latino/a, Latinx, Latine
A person whose origins are in Latin America, including Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South America, or Central America. If appropriate, specific terms such as Brazilian or Honduran may also be used. Latino is reserved for men and Latina for women. The plural Latinas is for a group of women and Latinos is for a group of men. A mixed gender group of Latin American descent, however, would use the masculine Latinos.
Latinx is a gender-neutral term used primarily by English-speaking people in the U.S. Latinx is a research-based designation, rather than community-based language. Only use Latinx if someone has said they identify that way; it is not accepted or used by many Latinos.
Latine, a term created by LGBTQI+ Spanish speakers, uses the letter "e" to illustrate gender inclusivity within existing Spanish pronunciation.
Not everyone with Latin American heritage uses Latine or Latinx, many continue to use Latino as a gender-neutral default. Use specific language (e.g., Guatemalan American, if appropriate) and ask for personal identity preferences whenever possible.
A person descended from Spanish-speaking populations. People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race. Most people with origins in Brazil are considered Latino but not Hispanic because most Brazilians speak Portuguese. Similarly, Spanish people may be considered Hispanic but not Latino. Because the terms are vague, use the more specific geographic origin (Colombian, Honduran, Argentinian), if possible.
Chicano or Chicana
Chicano refers to “Mexican Americans in the U.S. Southwest.” The Diversity Style Guide points out that the terms Chicano and Chicana were originally derogatory, but they were reclaimed “in response to discrimination against Mexican Americans working under unfair labor and social conditions.” Chicano/a is a chosen identity; only use it if someone self-identifies as such.
Middle East, MENA, Arab Americans
When writing about people of Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) descent, allowing individuals to self-identify is best. State the nation of origin (e.g., Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel) when possible. In some cases, people of MENA descent who claim Arab ancestry and reside in the United States may be referred to as Arab Americans.
Minoritized populations are groups that are marginalized or persecuted because of systemic oppression. The term emphasizes that something is being done by others to subjugate certain people, rather than using the permanent label of being a minority.
Minoritized is acceptable as an adjective provided that the noun(s) it modifies are included (e.g., racial and ethnic minoritized groups; sexual and gender minoritized groups). Populations should be described specifically whenever possible, and we should not default to using minoritized communities generally when writing about specific populations.
Minority health refers to distinctive health characteristics and attributes of racial and/or ethnic minority populations who are socially disadvantaged and underserved in health care, in part due to racist or discriminatory acts. Minority health research is the scientific investigation of singular and combinations of attributes, characteristics, behaviors, biology, and societal and environmental factors that influence the health of minority racial and/or ethnic population(s), including within-group or ethnic sub-populations, with the goals of improving health and preventing disease
The Asian American Journalists Association points out that Hawaiian “[r]efers to a person who is of Polynesia descent. Unlike a term like Californian, Hawaiian should not be used for everyone living in Hawaii.”
Similarly, the Diversity Style Guide uses the term Native Hawaiian, explaining: “Known as Kanaka Maoli in Hawaiian, Native Hawaiians trace their lineage and language to Polynesians, including Tahitians, Maoris and Samoans.”
The term Part-Hawaiian is acceptable when appropriate because it is a legal status. However, do not capitalize part with other nationalities (example: part-Japanese).
The Asian American Journalists Association calls Pacific Islander a “U.S. Census term, referring to one of eight groups—Fijian, Guamanian, Hawaiian, Northern Mariana Islander, Palauan, Samoan, Tahitian and Tongan.”
See also: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
Indigenous peoples, First peoples, First Nations, Aboriginal peoples, and Native peoples
These terms refer to people with origins in the original or earliest known inhabitants of an area, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied, or colonized the area more recently in human history. These terms may be useful to describe Indigenous people in a global context.
Person of color
A person of color, commonly abbreviated POC, is someone who is not White or of European origin. Many prefer this term to racial minorities and consider it inclusive of all non-White races, while some individuals with non-White identities may not relate to the term. Still others consider it euphemistic or irrelevant. Do not use people of color when referring to one specific racial group who doesn’t identify as White; use a term specific to that group.
Always capitalize the word Tribe or Tribal, even when not referring to a specific Tribe. NIH’s Tribal Health Research Office recommends NIH follow the precedent of the U.S. Department of the Interior and other federal agencies and capitalize Tribal in all instances, even when used as a common noun.
A person whose origins are in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. Avoid the term Caucasian because it technically refers to people from the Caucasus region. Avoid language that frames being White as a default, normal, or “raceless” identity. Non-Hispanic White is sometimes used to clarify that the described group does not include White Hispanic people.
While there is some debate over whether White should be capitalized, we follow the OMB standard and will capitalize all references to race, which is a divergence from AP style.
This page last reviewed on January 17, 2024