An award winning media company committed to sharing the perspectives of people of colour from marginalised genders
gal-dem is a magazine and media platform committed to sharing perspectives from people of colour of marginalised genders. We are celebrated for content that supports and gives voice to our varied communities – and brings joy to them too.
Our focus is on the stories of marginalised communities and incorporates everything from social justice and institutional corruption to cultural touchpoints and wellbeing. Our vision is to become widely known as an editorial platform for original analysis and ambitious investigative reporting. We write in a tone of voice that is accessible, conversational, compassionate, progressive and punchy.
gal-dem strives to be inclusive. We avoid othering people and cultures. However, we recognise that language is not fixed. What feels right today might not feel right tomorrow and our differing contexts impact the words we use. Through consultation with members of various communities, we will always strive to use the best language at any given time; while leaving room for individuals to bring their own contexts to the words they use as journalists. To that end, we are open to discussing the language we use and adapting it in the future.
For any questions, comments or suggestions about our style guide, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The gal-dem style guide exists for the benefit of our editors and writers to create consistency and accuracy across our copy, help readers understand our communications and build trust. We also believe, with the development of our ‘sensitivity and inclusivity’ section, that our style guide offers a particularly progressive approach to language in relation to gal-dem’s aim of sharing perspectives from people of colour of marginalised genders against the backdrop of a whitewashed media landscape.
Anonymising writers and interviewees
The anonymisation of writers and interviewees should be agreed in advance of publication and in conjunction with relevant laws and the editor’s code. Anonymisation should only be granted in specific circumstances and editors should be conscious of explaining this reasoning to writers, just as writers should explain why they can or cannot grant anonymity to their interviewees.
Our general policy is not to anonymise the writers of articles or interviewees within articles pre or post-publication unless:
On the first occasion a pseudonym is used, a star should appear next to the name i.e Aisha*. An italicised note should appear at the end of the copy reading: *Names have been changed to protect identities.
Removing or moderating articles on our website
Removing or moderating articles sets a precedent that doesn’t align with our values around transparency and the integrity of our journalistic archive in terms of the public record; this is in line with most, if not all, professional media organisations in the UK and beyond.
Our general policy is not to delete articles or moderate them post-publication unless:
If we do make a large factual correction to an article (beyond a typo) we will put a note at the bottom in italics, reading: *This article was amended on DATE to state that XXX. An earlier version mistakenly said XXX.
There are roughly five types of article formats that gal-dem publishes. These are:
More details can be found in our pitching guide.
Headlines are written in sentence case, without a full stop.
Single quotes are used around quoted speech in headlines.
Single quotes are also used in headlines around books, films, TV shows etc. ONLY if the meaning is compromised without.
Standfirsts are written in sentence case, with a full stop.
Captions and credits
Captions and credits should appear directly under the image and are styled in italics as follows:
Illustration by [name of illustrator, linked to their IG or website]
Photography by [name of photographer, linked to their IG or website]
Photography via [Creative Commons / Flickr / Unsplash etc.] / [name of photographer]
Still via [Universal Studios / BBC / Netflix / YouTube] / [name of programme]
Endnotes are styled in italics and take a full stop. If the endnote contains words that are already italicised (e.g. the name of a book), these should be left in italics (not changed to regular).
Suggested endnotes for stories about suicide, domestic abuse, and other types of trauma:
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or you can email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org
In the UK, call Galop’s National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans+ Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 999 5428, the national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247 or visit Women’s Aid. In the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org
Text SHOUT to 85258 from anywhere in the UK, anytime 24/7, about any type of crisis, including suicidality.
In the US, TrevorLifeline, TrevorChat, and TrevorText provide LGBTQ+ crisis support. If you are thinking about suicide and in need of immediate support, please call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or select TrevorChat below to connect with a counsellor.
Pull quotes are written with double quotation marks, in sentence case, and do not take a full stop. Names should only be added to pull quotes when there are multiple interviewees.
Pull quotes should paraphrase over using parentheses e.g.
NO: “[Growing up with mixed heritage] made me realise that no two groups of people are the same”
YES: “Growing up with mixed heritage made me realise that no two groups of people are the same”
gal-dem should not be italicised in Q&As.
Q&A interviews don’t require speech marks.
Question in bold, answer in regular.
Use full names, each in bold, on first mention only.
Poppy Ajudha: Answer
All sponsored content should be categorised and tagged as Sponsored Content to pull through sponsored content formatting.
The sponsor should also be mentioned at the beginning of the body copy, in italics, as follows:
Supported by X
Used to describe editorially independent content where funding has been accepted from a third party. This may describe new content or pre-planned content. Before funds are exchanged, the relevant gal-dem editor is consulted on the suitability of the funding for the project. gal-dem and its commissioning editors are not obliged to accept ideas or changes from the funder. gal-dem is not required to show content or edits to the funder for approval.
This is also used to describe content that has been produced using funding from foundations or organisations engaged in philanthropic funding.
Produced in partnership with X / Sponsored by X
Used to describe content funded by a brand partner for the purposes of advertisement, marketing or communication to gal-dem readers. gal-dem has been paid to produce this content and was obliged to consider (but not accept) feedback and edit suggestions from the end funder. All partnership content is the result of a creative strategy devised by gal-dem staff and worked out in partnership with a marketing or media agency and brand client.
The red content warning label should be included for articles that mention sexual assault, child abuse, domestic abuse, suicide, eating disorders, self-harm, discriminatory language, racism, transphobia, queerphobia (homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia etc.), Islamophobia, antisemitism, casteism, miscarriage and abortion, mental illness and/or ableism.
Content warnings should also appear at the beginning of the body copy and are styled in bold, as follows:
Content warning: This article contains mentions of suicide and self-harm.
Reporting on self-harm and suicide
Self-harm and suicide must be covered with extreme sensitivity. Providing information on how to contact organisations where people can find support is essential, as well as avoiding coverage which includes details of self harm or suicide methods and/or sensationalises or romanticises suicidal behaviour.
Additional resources: Guidance for reporting on self-harm from Samaritans.
Reporting on eating disorders
Additional resources: Guidance on reporting on eating disorders from Beat
gal-dem is styled in italics with a hyphen and lowercase ‘g’.
gal-dem uses UK English spelling (e.g. realised NOT realized) – except with proper nouns e.g. The Color Purple, World Trade Center
For any points not addressed in the style guide, refer to Collins English Dictionary and The Guardian’s style guide.
If a ‘foreign’ word is widely used in English, accents are not needed (e.g. cafe, facade) – except when necessary for meaning (e.g. rosé, saké).
See also: Italics
Acronyms are styled without full stops e.g. BBC, EU
For lesser-known acronyms, write out in full and include acronym in brackets on first mention – and then acronym can be used thereafter e.g. the National Union of Students (NUS)
Acronyms and abbreviations of proper nouns that are pronounced as words should be spelled out with an initial capital e.g. Nato, Covid, Aids, Unesco, Nasa
Ampersands should not be used, unless they are part of a brand’s name (e.g. H&M, Marks & Spencer) or a widely known abbreviation (e.g. G&T).
N.B. apostrophe+s = possession of one e.g. the writer’s article
s+apostrophe = possession of more than one e.g. the readers’ replies
it’s = it is e.g. it’s about time
its = belonging to it e.g. back in its box
Words that end in ‘s’ are followed only by an apostrophe (no ‘s’), unless the official name includes an ‘s’ e.g. The Times’ editor-in-chief; James’ coat BUT St James’s Park
N.B. ‘six months’ time’ but ‘six months pregnant’. As suggested by The Guardian, test with ‘one’ – ‘one day’s time’, ‘one month pregnant’.
Full sentences in brackets should be written in sentence case (i.e. starting with a capital) and the full stop goes inside the brackets e.g. (This is a full sentence that ends with a full stop.)
Likewise, if a full sentence within the brackets ends with a question mark or exclamation mark, there is no need for a full stop after the bracket.
Square brackets are used to add clarity to direct quotes. Avoid overuse.
Capitals are used for proper nouns.
When it comes to irregular use of capitals, gal-dem generally matches style e.g. YouTube, eBay, iPhone – except if it looks really bizarre. Use discretion.
Names of books, films, albums, TV shows, plays, songs etc. should be capitalised. HOWEVER, the following words should be lowercase UNLESS they come at the beginning of the title or subtitle: a, and, at, for, from, in, of, on, the, to e.g.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Notes of a Native Son
Subjects and degrees should be lowercase e.g. he studied politics at LSE, she has a PhD in child psychology
Be careful with the capitalisation of ‘The’ e.g. the United States NOT The United States, the Human Rights Act NOT The Human Rights Act
See also: Acronyms, Geographical Regions, Titles
Colons are used to join two clauses where the second illustrates or expands on the first e.g.
The results are clear: Biden has won the election.
If sales are anything to go by, their strategy works: this year, the company is expected to hit £1.9bn in revenue.
Colons are also used to introduce a list – although they should not be used where they would interrupt the flow of the sentence e.g.
His shadow cabinet includes three former ministers: X, Y and Z
His shadow cabinet includes X, Y and Z.
Colons can be used to introduce speech (but must be a full sentence) e.g.
When I ask her how she felt at the time, she replies: “I was devastated.”
Colons should generally be followed by a lowercase, except when used to introduce speech (as above).
See also: Commas, Semicolons
Use of contractions such as ‘don’t’ and ‘hasn’t’ are fine.
In direct speech, only use contractions when they have been used by the person quoted.
As a general rule, gal-dem does not use Oxford commas (commas before ‘and’ in a list). However sometimes they’re useful for the reader e.g. Her favourite foods are pizza, fish and chips, and spaghetti bolognese.
Other times, they’re necessary to clarify meaning. Below an example from The Guardian:
I dedicate this book to my parents, Toni Morrison and James Baldwin.
I dedicate this book to my parents, Toni Morrision, and James Baldwin.
Try to avoid comma splices (where two related clauses that would work as sentences on their own are joined by a comma) – although they can be used stylistically/in speech e.g.
INCORRECT: Bernie Sanders is technically not a Democrat, he’s an independent.
CORRECT: Bernie Sanders is technically not a Democrat; he’s an independent.
CORRECT: Bernie Sanders is technically not a Democrat – he’s an independent.
See also: Colons, Hyphens and dashes, Semicolons
Dates and times
Dates do not take ‘th’, ‘nd’, ‘st’ or ‘rd’.
As a general rule, dates should be written without the day e.g. 18 November NOT Tuesday 18 November – unless necessary for meaning.
Decades are written numerically, do not take an apostrophe and are not abbreviated e.g. 1990s NOT nineties, ’90s or 90’s
N.B. ‘early 2000s’ and ‘late 2000s’ but ‘mid-2000s’ (with hyphen)
Use the 12-hour clock, with full stops not colons e.g. 4am, 5.20pm
In running copy, time periods should be styled with ‘to’ or ‘until’ (i.e. written out), not a dash or hyphen e.g. from 5pm to 10pm, from 2010 until 2017
See also: Numbers
Countries, continents, states, counties and cities are capitalised e.g. the United Kingdom, South America, California, Greater Manchester, Paris
For large regions that are distinct geopolitical areas, the cardinal points are capitalised e.g. West Africa, Eastern Europe, the Global South, the Middle East
For small/less distinct regions, the cardinal points are written in lowercase e.g. the north-south divide, east London, the south of France
EXCEPT: the West End, the East End
N.B. Terms such as ‘the West’ and ‘the Global South’ should generally be avoided as they tend to homogenise. Be specific where you can. Avoid ‘third world’ and ‘developing’.
Hyphens and dashes
As a general rule, hyphens (-) are used to join words, while dashes (–) are used to join clauses.
gal-dem uses en-dashes (alt + hyphen) NOT em-dashes. Avoid overuse.
Adjectival phrases/compound modifiers (i.e. when two words precede a noun to form an adjective) should be hyphenated e.g. half-eaten sandwich, a well-known actor, first-year student, a lime-green dress. Note that, after the noun, these don’t need hyphenating e.g. the dress is lime green, the actor is well known
An 18-year-old woman
She is 18 years old
Adverbs ending in -ly do not take a hyphen e.g. a smartly dressed woman, a hotly disputed issue
N.B. Certain words and phrases take hyphens as nouns but not as verbs e.g.
They set up for the event BUT They helped with set-up
We agreed to catch up BUT Let’s arrange a catch-up
Italics are used for publications such as books, magazines, journals and newspapers e.g. The New Yorker, The Times
N.B. British Vogue NOT British Vogue
Italics are also used for albums, films, plays, games, TV shows and exhibitions.
‘Foreign’ words (i.e. those that don’t appear in Collins dictionary and we know not to be English) should be italicised on first mention only.
See also: Capitalisation, Publications, Quotation marks
Percentages should be written with numerals. Use % symbol, not ‘percent’ or ‘per cent’ e.g. 2% of the population
Degrees should be written using C and F e.g. the goal is to keep global warming under 1.5C. However, if the context is unclear, then use ‘degrees’ written out in full.
Currencies should be written with the symbol e.g. £7, 50p, $10.99. If the symbol is not widely known, write out in full e.g. 50 Swiss francs
As a general rule, measurements should be written numerically and the unit abbreviated (e.g. 5kg, 7lb, 400m), except if meaning is unclear.
Heights should be given in ‘imperial’ measurements using ‘ft’ and ‘in’, and styled with a space e.g. 5ft 7in
See also: Dates and times, Numbers
In running copy, use full name on first instance and first name from then on.
HOWEVER, if the person being quoted is a politician, government official or another expert in their field, use full name on first instance and surname name from then on.
Initials of an individual’s name take no punctuation e.g. Samuel L Jackson. Likewise, do not use spaces between initials e.g. CS Lewis
See also: Titles
One to nine should be written out in full, 10 onwards in numerals (although measurements and currencies are an exception).
HOWEVER sentences should not begin with numerals – write out in full. An exception to this rule is headlines e.g. 6 ways to improve your weekend
All decimals should be written numerically e.g. 1.9, 4.5
Thousands take a comma e.g. 3,000, 67,000
Millions and billions are written out in full when rounded e.g. two million, 11 billion. However, for currency, use ‘m’ for million and ‘bn’ for billion, with no spaces e.g. £2.5m, £6bn
Approximate ages should be written out in full e.g. twenties NOT 20s, thirties NOT 30s
Fractions should be written in full e.g. one third, one half, two thirds
See also: Dates and times, Measurements
Publications such as magazines, newspapers, journals and books are styled in italics.
N.B. Certain publications take capital ‘The’ (e.g. The Telegraph, The Times) while others do not (e.g. the Financial Times, the Guardian). It is fine to remove the ‘the’ to better fit the sentence e.g.
He is a Telegraph columnist
They wrote the Sunday Times bestselling book (here, ‘the’ refers to the book, not the newspaper)
See also: Italics, Quotation marks
gal-dem uses double quotation marks for speech and direct quotes.
Single quotation marks are used for song titles, poems, artworks, essays and articles.
Single quotation marks are also used for any examples of emphasis and can be used to highlight certain words or letters e.g. There is no ‘I’ in team.
Single quotation marks are used for quotes within quotes as well as quotes within a Q&A.
Single quotation marks are also used instead of double quotation marks in headlines and standfirsts.
Typically, if direct speech is broken up by information on who is speaking, a comma is needed inside the quotation marks.
“I’m trying to focus on myself for a bit,” she tells me.
When a quote is a full sentence, the full stop should go inside the quotation marks e.g
As X writes in the Guardian, “It’s upsetting but unsurprising that the government has chosen not to U-turn on this decision.”
If a quote does not form a full sentence, the full stop goes outside the quotation marks e.g.
She described her former colleague as “passionate and principled”.
If a quote is broken up but still forms a full sentence, the full stop should still be inside the quotation marks e.g.
“I don’t agree with his decision,” they reply, “but I understand why he did it.”
N.B. When speech runs on to a new paragraph, quotation marks should be left open at the end of the first paragraph and ‘re-opened’ on the next paragraph.
See also: Italics
Semicolons sit between a comma and a full stop, and are used to join together independent clauses (i.e. they could stand alone as sentences) that are related e.g.
She spent her time at university campaigning against the war; he was a member of the Bullingdon Club.
On the final day we went to see the pyramids; they were even bigger than I expected.
They can also be used to break up a long list (where commas don’t quite suffice).
Avoid semicolons in headlines, standfirsts and quoted speech.
See also: Colons, Commas
Singular and plural
Most teams, companies, organisations, collectives, groups and bands take the singular e.g. gal-dem is, Nike has, the government is. However, plural should be used for those whose names are plural e.g The Rolling Stones, Boyz II Men
(However, fine to use ‘we’ for gal-dem.)
N.B. Labour is singular, whereas the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are plural i.e. Labour has BUT the Conservatives have.
Headlines should be written using active language in the present tense.
Body copy of interviews and features should be written in the present tense i.e. ‘they/she/he says’, ‘they/she/he feels’ etc. Use the past tense for news pieces i.e. ‘they/she/he said’, ‘they/she/he felt’ etc.
Titles are written without a full stop e.g. Mr Johnson, Dr Fauci, Mx Alabanza – although full names are preferred.
As a general rule, gal-dem does not use courtesy titles such as ‘Lord’, ‘Sir’ (unless stylistic or necessary for meaning) e.g. Alan Sugar NOT Lord Sugar, Keir Starmer NOT Sir Keir Starmer. However, for those known widely or exclusively by their titles (e.g. the Queen, Prince Harry), these are fine.
Job titles are written in lowercase (unless acronyms) e.g. founder, editor-in-chief, shadow foreign secretary, leader of the opposition
N.B Joe Biden is the next president of the United States
Former president Barack Obama
The pope made a speech
BUT: He spoke to President Macron OR She met Pope Francis (here, ‘President’ and ‘Pope’ are used like ‘Dr’ or ‘Ms’)
Avoid unnecessarily gendered job titles e.g. actor NOT actress. Likewise, ‘police officer’ is preferred to ‘policeman’, ‘firefighter’ to ‘fireman’ etc.
See also: Names
URLs are styled without www. and should be linked to open in a new window i.e. gal-dem.com
Disability and mental health
gal-dem as an organisation views disability through the social model, meaning we understand that a person is disabled by the barriers society puts in their way, rather than a medical model which views disability through what may be ‘wrong’ with a person.
As a general rule, disability should only be included when relevant to the story. Disabilities should be used as adjectives, not nouns.
NOT ‘wheelchair-bound’ – instead ‘uses a wheelchair’
NOT ‘the handicapped’, ‘the disabled’ – instead ‘disabled people’
NOT ‘the blind’, ‘the deaf’ – instead ‘blind people’, ‘deaf people’
NOT ‘A person with a visual impairment’ – instead ‘A visually impaired person’
In our reporting we actively seek to avoid the following tropes:
In line with the Social Model of Disability, we know many people choose to refer to themselves as disabled as a political choice and therefore use identity-first language. This may change based on individual preference, and in the US person-first language is more commonly used. Where possible, go with the wording that individuals have specified they are most comfortable with.
Avoid using mental health illnesses as synonyms i.e. ‘anorexic’ does not mean thin, ‘depressed’ does not mean sad etc.
It’s best to refer to people who are not disabled as ‘non-disabled’ and avoid the use of terms like ‘able-bodied’, which implies that all people with disabilities lack ‘able bodies’ or the ability to use their bodies well.
Additional resources: terms to avoid when writing about disability.
N.B. Words such as ‘dumb’ and ‘lame’ are slurs and should be avoided in any context. The words ‘insane’, ‘crazy’ and ‘mad’ should also be avoided in favour of words such as ‘wild’ or ‘unreal’. Steer clear of using disabilities metaphorically e.g. ‘blind spot’, ‘fall on deaf ears’, ‘paralysed by fear’, ‘crippled with work’
Some people choose not to identify as disabled:
• Neurodivergence – do not assume all autistic/Neurodivergent people see themselves as disabled.
• Mental health – people within the Survivors Movement see mental illness as a cultural construct rather than a set of medical conditions with a basis in science. They may not necessarily identify as disabled people.
• D/deaf – a large number of Deaf people whose first language is BSL see themselves as part of a language minority and see Deafness as part of their cultural identity.
‘Deaf’ is capitalised when referring to someone who has been Deaf their whole life to acknowledge that it’s an identity and there’s a Deaf community with its own language and culture.
Additional resources: style guide from The Deaf Health Charity
As a general rule, gender identity (along with parental and marital status) should only be included when relevant to the story.
Gender identity/pronouns should not be assumed. It’s always better to check than to misgender someone. Clarify which pronouns you should use in your article to avoid outing closeted trans people.
Genderfluid, non-binary, agender people or those who have genders outside the binary use a variety of pronouns for third-person reference. The most common is ‘they/them’, but people may also use neopronouns such as ‘zie/hirs’ e.g. ‘they are very happy with themself’, ‘zie is very happy with hirself’. (N.B. Spelling varies from person to person so always check.)
Sometimes people may use a combination of pronouns or mix them up e.g. ‘she/they’, ‘they/he’, ‘she/he/they’. In this case, check with the person as to how they would like to be referred in your articles. If checking isn’t a possibility, slash their pronouns in the first instances and then use a combination of pronouns throughout the article, keeping a single pronoun per paragraph or section.
For public figures, look at social media and articles to check pronouns.
Avoid language that equates gender with anatomy. Refer to ‘people who menstruate’, ‘people who have periods’, ‘people with prostates’ etc.
When talking about people who are affected by transmisogyny (transphobia and misogyny) – i.e. trans women, transfeminine people – refer to them as ‘transmisogyny-affected’. Refer to those who aren’t affected by it – i.e. trans men, transmasculine people – as ‘transmisogyny-exempt’. This is a useful catch-all without resorting to the tired ‘women and non-binary people’.
assigned male/female at birth (ONLY when relevant)
NOT ‘biological male/female’, ‘born male/female’ or ‘born a man/woman’
Additional resources: GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender, Trans Journalists style guide
NOT ‘normal’. Can be abbreviated to ‘cis’. Means ‘same as’ i.e. a cis man was assigned male at birth and feels congruence with that.
NOT ‘birth name’, ‘original name’ etc. This is the best way to refer to a trans person’s name before they came out and changed it (if at all, as not all trans people do change their names). Generally speaking, you should not record this unless given explicit consent from the person whose deadname it is. Any reference to deadname should be replaced with the correct name – unless there’s explicit consent to keep it in.
For video/audio sources that misgender/deadname someone, every effort should be made to cut around it, block out the misgendering/deadnaming or simply not use that source.
gender confirmation/affirmation surgery
NOT ‘sex change’ or ‘reassignment’
Use of this word should be led by the author/trans person. ‘Medically/socially transitioned’ can also sometimes be used where relevant.
NOT ‘gender identity disorder’
is X gender
NOT ‘identifies as’, unless specifically used by speaker
Always write in full. You may sometimes see this abbreviated as ‘nb’, ‘n-b’ or ‘enby’ – however ‘nb’ is often also used to mean non-black and ‘enby’ is not used by everyone. Therefore ‘non-binary’ is best to avoid doubt.
NOT ‘men and women’, ‘ladies and gentlemen’ etc. DO use ‘everyone’, ‘reader(s)’ and other gender neutral collective terms.
NOT ‘preferred pronouns’
It is fine for ‘transgender’ to be abbreviated to ‘trans’. Should be used as an adjective i.e. ‘a transgender woman’ or ‘trans people’ NOT ‘a transgender’, ‘a transgendered woman’ or “transgenders”. NOT “transsexual”, unless this is preferred term.
Using ‘female/male’ should be avoided where possible as an adjective and we do not use ‘female/male’ as a noun.
An inclusive term used to refer to people pushed to the margins of society or who face economic, political or social inequality as a result of their gender identity. Marginalised genders encompasses people who self-define as women (cis, trans or otherwise), trans men, people have a fluid gender identity or whose gender identity falls outside of the binary, and those who are intersex. N.B. ‘Underrepresented genders’ is another inclusive term that can be used.
For more on language around trans people, refer to Trans Journalists Association’s style guide.
Race and ethnicity
As a general rule, race and ethnicity should only be included when relevant to the story.
There are longstanding debates about the use of collective terms (see: BAME, POC, BPOC and black/Black) as descriptors. While language is always evolving, no term currently in existence is without its flaws, and we should always be as specific as possible when referring to people’s race or ethnicity. At gal-dem we do recognise the importance and political significance of collective organising and shared lived experiences between racialised groups in the UK and beyond. In working together to put the voices of people of colour of marginalised genders to the forefront, we are drawing on the history of organisations such as the United Coloured People’s Alliance and the Organisation for Women of Asian and African Descent.
Additional resources: Why We Have So Many Terms For People of Colour
There are also longstanding debates among linguists about the hyphenation of ethnicities, which some believe connotes not fully belonging to a group or country. As a general rule, gal-dem uses hyphens for nationalities (e.g. she is French-Canadian, the British-American actor) but NOT ethnicities (e.g. African Caribbean, black British) – even if adjectival (e.g. the first African American president). Hyphens should also be used for prefixes such as ‘Anglo-’, ‘Franco-’ etc – although we do not use the prefix ‘Afro-’.
Additional resources: Are names of groups like African American and Native American ever hyphened in MLA style?
No hyphen and lowercase ‘s’.
Additional resources: holocaustremembrance.com/spelling-antisemitism
Refers to Arabic-speaking nations or people from an Arabic-speaking country. Not synonymous with Muslim, North African or Middle Eastern. When referring to events in a specific country, name the country rather than generalising with ‘Arab’. When ethnicity or nationality is relevant, it is more precise and accurate to specify the country by using Lebanese, Palestinian or whatever is appropriate. Arab is a noun for a person and it can also be used as an adjective, as in Arab country or Arab culture or Arab food.
N.B. Iran is not an Arab country. The majority of Iranian people are Persian and the language is Farsi. Arabian is an adjective that refers to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, or for things, such as an Arabian horse – not Arab people, their language, culture or dress. Arabic is the name of the language spoken in Arab countries and it is generally not used as an adjective. It is never used to describe people or their identities.
Always used as an adjective i.e. ‘an Asian woman’ rather than ‘an Asian’, ‘is Asian’ rather than ‘is an Asian’. N.B. In the UK, Asian is often used to refer to South Asian people, whereas in the US, it typically refers to East Asian people. When referring to an individual, their country of origin is preferred if known. Specificity is key as the experiences of people vary hugely and this can have huge political significance.
Black, Asian and minority ethnic. Avoid if possible – while BAME serves a similar function to POC, its usage is more highly contested because of its history of being used in bureaucratic box-ticking exercises. N.B. BAME is not interchangeable with people of colour, as it also includes minority groups racialised as white such as Irish Travellers and Eastern Europeans.
BIPOC / BPOC
BIPOC can be used in the context of the US, where ‘I’ refers to Indigenous/Native American. Leave if the writer is adamant, but specifics are preferred. In the UK, BPOC is used by some writers but POC is preferred unless there is a specific reason for isolating those of black identity within the acronym.
Used to refer to those of the black Caribbean and African diaspora, including those of mixed race where relevant. Capitalise at request of writer but used in lowercase across gal-dem comms as standard due to the UK’s history of political Blackness. Always used as an adjective – ‘black people’ not ‘blacks’.
In the UK, most commonly used to refer to those of South Asian heritage, though sometimes used by other communities, including Latinx and black people, especially as a descriptor for skin tone. When speaking of black and South Asian communities in the UK, writers can say, for example, ‘black and brown’. Capitalise at request of writer but used in lowercase across gal-dem comms.
When writing about the caste system, capitalise terminology. Savarnas are those who fall within the system i.e. in the four main castes of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. Avarnas are those who fall outside this, including scheduled castes and tribes, notably the Dalit community – the term for the most lowered caste (generally try to avoid use of ‘Untouchables’, unless writer or interviewees are from Dalit background and this is their preferred term).
Used to refer to people whose heritage is from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. ‘Central’ takes capitals.
Commonly used to refer to peoples who are the descendants of those who were there before the country or region was colonised by the dominant society, especially in the Americas and Australia. Always capitalised. N.B. Not all Indigenous peoples are also tribal.
Additional resources: Survival International Terminology.
Used to refer to people whose heritage is from China, Taiwan, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea and South Korea. ‘East’ takes capitals. NOT Oriental.
Best only to use in the case of ‘ethnic minority’. Use sparingly.
A term for POC sometimes used as an alternative to ‘ethnic minority’ which recognises that POC represent over 80% of the world’s population.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller
Always capitalised. Can be shortened to GRT. N.B. Some find ‘Gypsy’ offensive – defer to the writer on preferred terms.
Additional resources: www.gypsy-traveller.org
Terms used to refer to people of Latin American origin. Latinx often preferred as a gender-neutral term (Spanish is gendered) as it is more inclusive of trans and gender-non-conforming people. However, Latinx can be viewed by some as ‘one-size fits-all’ and doesn’t acknowledge colourism, anti-blackness or address white Latin Americans within this spectrum. Use preferred term.
Afro-Latinx is often a preferred term for the African diaspora in Latin America. Be more specific where possible (e.g. Afro-Indigenous, British-Colombian) and don’t erase more marginalised identities within the Latinx umbrella. N.B. Latinx is not the same as Hispanic, which includes Spanish-speaking people from Spain, Mexico etc. Avoid ‘Latinidad’.
NOT mixed-race. Avoid using the world ‘half’ in reference to a person’s identity e.g. half-black, half-Chinese. ‘She is mixed black and Chinese’ is a better alternative. ‘Biracial’ and ‘dual heritage’ are also fine.
‘Native’ takes capitals. NOT ‘American Indians’. ‘Indigenous’ (capitalised) or ‘Indigenous American’ is also accepted. Always use preferred term. Whenever possible, refer to a specific tribal name (e.g. Navajo, Cherokee).
Refers to people and things from North African countries and regions: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Western Sahara. Not synonymous with Arab, Muslim or Middle Eastern. When referring to events in a specific country, name the country rather than generalising with ‘Arab’. ‘North’ takes capitals.
N.B. All countries in North Africa are officially considered Arabic-speaking, but Arabic is not the only language spoken in North Africa. Many Arab people identify as both Arab and North African. However, Arab people are not the only ethnic group who are from North Africa and some individuals from North Africa identify as solely North African and not Arab.
Used to refer to people whose heritage is from the transcontinental region centred on Western Asia, Southeastern Europe and Northern Africa: Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the eastern part of Turkey known also as Asia Minor, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, and northeastern Africa: Egypt and Sudan. N.B. ‘SWANA’ is a preferred alternative.
people of colour or person of colour
Preferred term for people not of white ethnicity, which has a political history in activist circles. Use in full on the first instance and then abbreviate to POC. N.B. Only use this term when you mean people of colour in their entirety (i.e. if you are speaking about black people specifically, use ‘black people’ – not ‘people of colour’). NOT ‘coloured people’.
[name] of colour
For example, ‘journalists of colour’. Use sparingly.
women of colour
Shortened to WOC. A political statement first used in 1977 to lobby for recognition of a shared agenda for black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian women, WOC comes from a different, and arguably more radical, political discourse than POC.
Used to refer to people whose heritage is from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. ‘South’ takes capitals. Always used as an adjective when referring to race/ethnicity.
Used to refer to people whose heritage is from Brunei, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ‘Southeast’ takes capitals. Always used as an adjective when referring to race/ethnicity.
SWANA is a decolonial acronym for the South West Asian/North African region in place of ‘Middle Eastern’, ‘Near Eastern’, ‘Arab world’ or ‘Islamic world’ – all of which have colonial, Eurocentric and Orientalist origins and are not suited to encompass such a large region of people who do not share the same countries or continents, sects, religions or languages (e.g. Egypt is home to Arab, Coptic and Amazigh people, and the languages spanning the SWANA region include Arabic, Farsi, Tamazight and more). Several activist groups from the region/s use SWANA as an alternative. SWANA is used to speak to the diversity of communities from the region and to forward the most vulnerable in the communities’ liberation.
As a general rule, sexuality should only be included when relevant to the story. Sexualities should be used as adjectives not nouns e.g. gay people NOT gays, she is bisexual NOT she is a bisexual – although ‘lesbian’ is an exception. Always use preferred terminology and avoid making assumptions.
Can be abbreviated to ‘ace’ after first mention if put in brackets e.g. an asexual (ace) woman
Can be abbreviated to ‘bi’
NOT ‘LGBT’ or ‘LGBTQ’ etc., unless quoted from a specific study/person
NOT ‘gay marriage’
ONLY when used by someone from the community as a self-definition. It’s ideally not used as a catch-all as not all LGBTQI+ people use it, though it’s often used in POC circles.
Avoid the world ‘homosexual’ as it has clinical connotations. ‘Homosexuality’ can be used if referring to specific policies or laws e.g. The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act.
An abbreviation for queer and trans people of colour.
Additional resources: glaad.org/reference/offensive
Racist/homophobic/transphobic slurs should be avoided, but if they are used within a piece or directly quoted they should generally be starred from the first vowel i.e n*gger, p*ki.
See also: Content warnings
enslaved / enslaved people
Preferred over ‘slave’
sex worker or sex work
Allow sex workers to self-define (i.e. The English Collective of Prostitutes) but generally NOT ‘prostitute’ or ‘prostitution’ unless referring to laws or policies.
When writing about immigration, do not use the term ‘illegal’ to describe people – ‘undocumented’ is fine, but specifics are better. In general, try to avoid labelling an individual as an ‘immigrant’ if possible e.g. Her parents moved to the UK from Ghana RATHER THAN Her parents were Ghanaian immigrants.
amid (not ‘amidst’)
bell hooks (lowercase)
cafe (no accent)
Covid-19 (not all-caps)
OK (capitalised, without full stops, NOT ‘okay’)
R&B (capitalised, with ampersand)