Choosing the right word

The words you choose to describe important content and issues in your document can set the tone for your document, and influence the reaction of your readers. Choosing the right word can make all the difference to your document.  Take special care with words in titles. If the title doesn’t have the right words, or is unclear, confusing or offensive, some readers may not read on.

Consider these examples:

  • Are people described as clients, customers, consumers or stakeholders?
  • Are older people described as seniors, the elderly, the aged, pensioners or retirees?
  • Are women described as ladies, girls, females or women?
  • Are people who walk described as vulnerable road users, pedestrians or active transport users?

Language is always changing, so be aware of changing trends in meanings and preferred terms. Large organisations may have a style guide to provide guidance. An editor can advise whether the words you have used are the best for your document and audience, or may be inappropriate.

For more, see our March 2014 post on inclusive language – be inclusive by using gender-neutral or gender-free language.

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