First Year Composition Program: Language Guidelines

FYCOMP Recommendations on Non-Discriminatory Language

The First Year Composition Committee encourages instructors to address the issue of non-discriminatory language. As writing teachers, we try to make students aware of how the written word acts upon the reader. Such a consideration is essential to our work as instructors, and consequently we view non-discriminatory language as a fundamental concern of the art of communication. The need for First Year Composition guidelines on non-discriminatory language arises principally because many people--instructors, students, administrators, and the general public included--wish guidance in these matters.

Nearly all professional organizations and publications promote the use of non-discriminatory language through a formal set of guidelines. Most American publishers and journal editors require their authors to follow such guidelines. The business world insists upon non-discriminatory language in its internal and external communications. Concerned that students become aware of the demands of "real world" writing, the First Year Composition Committee has, since the early 1980s, promoted non-discriminatory guidelines through its adoption of a series of handbooks. Moreover, the FYCC wishes to help writers locate the issue within a larger domain of understanding and to provide alternatives for informed choices. We realize, certainly, that no policy will prevent the inevitability of linguistic change. English changes because it is a living language capable of accommodating great diversity.

In its exploration of this issue the FYCC has learned that most instructors consider non-discriminatory language as it engages several levels of rhetorical concern traditionally addressed in the classroom: audience analysis, language change, the persuasive nature of language, precision and appropriateness of language, stylistic conventions, etc. To support these concerns, the First Year Composition Program recommends that instructors follow the American Psychological Association's "Guidelines for Nonsexist Language in APA Journals."