When reviewing manuscripts in relation the author’s use of appropriate terminology related to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, or expression, consider whether the author is using current, respectful, and inclusive language to describe people from particular diversity groups.
In terms of “current” terminology, consider whether the author is using descriptors that particular groups currently use to describe themselves. The term “homosexual,” for instance, has been replaced by terms such as lesbian and gay, as homosexual has historic connotations of mental illness.
In terms of “respect,” check whether the author uses people-first language. By referring to the person first, the author is acknowledging their humanity and avoiding reducing a person to just one trait. When discussing people with schizophrenia, for instance, authors should avoid use of terms such as “schizophrenic” or “schizophrenic person.” Instead, they may use the term, “person with schizophrenia.”
When referring to race, authors should capitalize terms such as “Black” and “White,” just as they would capitalize nationalities such as Japanese or Egyptian.
Consider whether authors are distinguishing appropriately between “sex” and “gender.” “Sex” refers to physical and biological traits, including whether a person was assigned male or female at birth. “Gender” refers to the person’s social identity. Note that gender is not a binary concept. People may identify as female, male, nonbinary, genderqueer, gender fluid, two-spirit, and so on. Similarly, sexual orientation is not a binary concept. People may identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, and so on.
When authors provide demographic information related to race, sexual orientation, and gender, check whether the descriptors are “inclusive” of all people within each demographic grouping. If a study identifies the percentages of people who identify as Black, White, Indigenous, and so on, it may be missing people who identify with more than one of these groups. Similarly, an article that refers only to female and male individuals may be missing people who identify as transgender, gender nonbinary, and so on.
Different language may be considered appropriate or inappropriate within different cultural contexts. When considering whether particular terminology is appropriate, consider the country or location of the author and the groups to which the author is referring. Some diversity terms have different connotations within different cultures. If you are not certain about whether the author’s language is current, respectful, and inclusive, you could search online for articles that provide examples of inclusive language. The APA style guide, for instance, contains a section on “General Principles for Reducing Bias” with suggestions for inclusive, bias-free language.