Inclusive language

Culturally sensitive language

People with disability

Gender and sexual diversity

Gender neutral language


ACER encourages the use of respectful and inclusive language in relation to cultural and linguistic diversity, gender and sexuality, disability and age.

Culturally sensitive language

Use inclusive language and avoid expressions such as ‘ethnic Australians’ or ‘ethnic groups’. Only mention heritage if it is of direct relevance to your text.

When describing dual identity using an adjective, use an ‘en dash’, as in ‘Japanese–Australian community’.

To specifically refer to people who have recently arrived in Australia, the terms ‘migrants’, ‘immigrants’ and ‘new arrivals’ are preferred.

Use the terms ‘given name’ and ‘family name’ rather than ‘Christian name’ ‘first name’, ‘forename’ or ‘surname’.

When referring to First Nations Australians, ACER Press prefers the term Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples over the term Indigenous. The term Indigenous may be retained when it is part of the title of a report, program, or quotation; where this is necessary, the term must take a capital ‘I’, if it is a proper noun.

However, there is no one Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity and the authoritative advice ultimately rests with particular communities or individuals. Proper consultation should be undertaken where possible.

People with disability

Avoid defining people by their disability. Mention disability only when it is of direct relevance to your content.

At ACER Press, we prefer ‘person-first’ language (particularly if the preferences of individuals or communities discussed are not known). This describes the person and then the characteristic, whereas ‘identity-first’ language preferences identity. Cases where people with disability may instead prefer ‘identify first’ language can usually be established through consultation and research.


People with disability (person-first)

Disabled person (identity-first)

Language that may be well intentioned can still appear offensive.


Avoid stating a person is inspirational just because they are disabled.

Avoid referring to people as if they are ‘heroes’ or ‘victims’.

When drawing comparisons to people without disabilities, write:

  • ‘person without disability’ rather than ‘able-bodied’
  • ‘sighted person’ for someone who is not blind
  • ‘hearing person’ for someone who is not deaf
  • ‘neurotypical’ for someone who is not autistic.

Note that the terms ‘learning disability’ and ‘learning difficulty are not interchangeable. A learning difficulty is not a disability and can be overcome through concentrated teaching or training. A ‘learning disability’ is neurological in cause; and is not related directly to intelligence.

When someone has a diagnosed mental illness, avoid describing them as ‘being’ their disease.


Correct: Mike has bipolar disorder.

Incorrect: Mike is bipolar.

Gender and sexual diversity

Exercise care when using language and discussing topics around gender and sexual diversity.

Gender generally relates to social and cultural differences and identity, whereas ‘sex’ refers to the legal status initially determined by sex characteristics at birth.

The terms preferred by ACER Press for collectively representing diverse sexualities and gender identities are LGBTI or LGBTIQ+. 

Authors should also be mindful that individuals have the right to identify their sexual orientation and gender identity as they choose. Where relevant, this should be reflected in your writing.

Language in this area is evolving, so we encourage you to discuss any questions you have with your publisher.

Gender neutral language

Where possible, use gender neutral language and avoid gender-specific job titles and terms.

Try to use the singular ‘they’, ‘their’ or ‘them’, which avoids specifying a person’s gender. It is also possible to use ‘themselves’ or ‘themself’ instead of ‘himself’ or ‘herself’. Alternatively, leave the out the pronoun altogether or use the gender-free pronoun ‘you’.


Formulation to be avoided:

The candidate should contact his referees prior to lodging an application.

Suitable alternatives:

Candidates should contact their referees prior to lodging an application.

Referees should be contacted prior to lodging an application.

You must contact your referees prior to lodging an application.


Avoid referring to a person’s age where it is not relevant.

Use the phrase ‘older people’ instead of ‘old people’.

‘Young people’ and ‘youth’ is preferred over ‘youths’.

Refer to students by their level of study, rather than their age, unless age is relevant to your discussion.


preschool students

high-school students

postgraduate students