ETSU is an inclusive community that respects, honors, and works towards amplifying the voices of all people. Inclusiveness and facilitating a sense of belonging contribute to a happier, more productive environment for our university. One way to promote community and belonging is to be thoughtful in our use of language and imagery.
All of us have faced adversity in our lives and many of us have experienced trauma. ETSU, through its work with the Strong BRAIN Institute, strives to provide a trauma-informed approach to education and to foster resiliency among our community. This is particularly critical for our campus, as ETSU serves a high number of military-affiliated students, students from low-income backgrounds, and students who may have been impacted by the effects of the opioid crisis. The Strong BRAIN Institute website offers a variety of resources for supporting individuals suffering from the adverse effects of trauma. When it comes to communications, it is important to practice empathy and be aware of how trauma may shape an individual's behavior or perceptions. In addition to those offered by the Strong BRAIN Institute, you may want to review the following resources:
- Trauma-Informed Oregon: A Trauma-Informed Communications Script
- Harvard Business Review: We Need Trauma-Informed Workplaces
Inclusive Language Guide
This Inclusive Language Guide is intended to help the campus community choose respectful and affirming language.
- Ensure balanced outreach in marketing/storytelling materials
- Make everyone feel included
- all ages
- students from nontraditional family situtations, such as foster youth or youth raised by grandparents
- all races, ethnicities, and nationalities
- all socioeconomic statuses
- rural students
- first-generation students
- veteran and military-affiliated students
- people with different abilities/disabilities
- all genders
- all body sizes, shapes, types
- all religions/spiritual beliefs
- all political affiliations/viewpoints
- Acknowledge that you understand the importance of using respectful language
- We are all human with various attributes. It is generally best not to lead with features to avoid stereotyping or defining a whole person based on presumed notions.
- Avoid labels and focus on humanizing subjects. For example, instead of calling someone an "addict," say "a person with a substance-use disorder."
Communicating with Veterans and Military-Affiliated Students
Veterans and military-affiliated students often have experiences that are different from typical "civilian" life. The culture of military service often instills a unique set of expectations and military life has its own vocabulary. Additionally, many military-affiliated individuals may have suffered some form of trauma related to their service. Keeping these considerations in mind can help military-affiliated members of our community feel supported and included. The following resources may be helpful:
- Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms
- U.S. Veterans Magazine: Communicating with Veterans in the Workplace
- Hallmark: Understanding Military Appreciation Holidays and Honoring Service Members
- ETSU Office of Military and Veteran Services
Communicating with Rural Students
ETSU serves many students from rural backgrounds. Rural communities offer their own challenges and opportunities, and communicating effectively with rural students sometimes requires using different strategies and channels. The Niche.com Rural Student Recruitment Insights Guide and the EAB Rural Student Recruitment 101 Guide are both useful resources for reaching rural audiences.
Using Gender-Neutral Language
Try to be more aware of the manner in which you address groups or identify people. For example, try replacing "you guys" or "ladies and gentlemen" with "you all" or "Welcome everyone!" Understand that using generic masculine terms to refer to both genders perpetuates gender bias. When possible, consider looking for ways to modify sentences to make them gender-neutral.
|People, humanity, human beings, humankind, we
|Representatives, business community, business people
|Legislator, congressional representative, parliamentarian
|Guys (referring to men and women)
|Boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife
|Each professor should send one of her assistants to the conference.
|Each professor should send one assistant to the conference.
|A good employee knows that he should strive for excellence.
|A good employee strives for excellence.
Source: Gender-Inclusive Language Guidelines, UN Women
It is important to remember that language is fluid. Additionally, because many of the terms listed below are often central to a person's identity, people may choose to use them different ways to describe themselves. The following is a list of commonly used terms that can help you craft more inclusive and/or culturally sensitive messaging. When in doubt, ask individuals how they wish to be referenced, use neutral terms, or follow their lead.
Ableism: Discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.
Accessibility: The extent to which a facility is readily approachable and usable by individuals with disabilities, particularly such areas as the residence halls, classrooms and public common areas.
Ageism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in age; usually that of younger persons against older.
Discrimination: Actions based on a conscious or unconscious prejudice. It is the unacceptable unequal treatment of members of various groups based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, and/or other categories.
Ethnicity: Ethnicity refers to markers acquired from the group with which one shares cultural, traditional, and familial bonds and is often used to describe a person's ancestral origins. Ethnicity is not the same as race (see below).
Gender: This is the name we use to convey our gender based on our internal sense of self. A person’s gender identity can correspond to or differ from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Military-Affiliated Student: Military-Affiliated Students include students who
- Are currently serving on active duty within the branches of the armed forces
- Currently serving within the National Guard or Reserve Forces
- Are the family member (spouse or child) of a service member on active duty
- Are a Veteran of active-duty service, the National Guard, or the Reserves (possessing a DD-214 or other documentation of service)
- Are a family member (spouse or child) of a Veteran
Activation: Order to active duty (other than for training) in the federal service.
Active Duty: Active duty is full-time duty in the active military service of the United States. This includes members of the Reserve Components serving on active duty or full-time training duty, but does not include full-time National Guard duty.
Armed Forces of the United States: A term used to denote collectively all components of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and United States Space Force (USSF).
Combat veteran: An individual who has served in the military in a high-risk environment or combat.
Commissioned Officer: Commissioned Officers must hold a college degree. They may earn their commission by completing an ROTC, OCS, or Service Academy program.
DoD: Department of Defense.
Emergency Preparedness, or EP: Measures taken in advance of an emergency to reduce the loss of life and property.
Federal Service: A term applied to National Guard members and units when called to active duty to serve the United States government.
GI Bill®: GI Bill® benefits help qualifying active-duty service members, veterans, and their family members cover all or some of the costs for postsecondary education.
Military Affiliated Student Resource Center or MARC: ETSU's Military Affiliated Student Resource Center, or MARC is located on the ground floor of Yoakley Hall, room 006. It is available 24/7 and provides unlimited printing, a full-service kitchen, coffee, computer access, study spaces, and a lounge area. The MARC is for family members (spouses and children) of veterans and active duty military personnel, anyone who has served in the military, and combat veterans. You do not have to be using GI Bill® benefits for access to the MARC.
Military and Veteran Services Office: ETSU's Military and Veteran Services Office assists military-affiliated students in maximizing their education benefits and succeeding in postsecondary education.
National Guard: The National Guard of the United States is a reserve military force composed of National Guard military members or units of each state and the territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands plus the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia (54 organizations) under federally recognized active or inactive Armed Force service for the United States.
NCO, or Non-Commissioned Officer: A Non-Commissioned Officer is an officer who has not been given a commission; usually obtains their position of authority by promotion through the enlisted ranks.
Officer Candidate, School or OCS: These schools teach students the mental and physical skills necessary to lead as Commissioned Officers, and qualified graduates can earn commissions upon finishing the program.
ROTC, or Reserve Officer Training Corps: The ROTC is a program that young adults can enroll in at a college or university through which they can attend school while preparing to enter the military as a Second Lieutenant.
Service Academy: These academies combine academic and military education, focusing on topics like leadership, weapons, engineering, math and science, and the studies culminate in a commission.
USAR: U.S. Army Reserve.
Veteran: Any individual who has previously served in the military and has since been discharged or released from service under honorable conditions.
Race: Race refers to a group sharing some outward physical characteristics and some commonalities of culture and history.
Race and Ethnicity Terms:
Race: Race refers to a group sharing some outward physical characteristics and some commonalities of culture and history.
American Indian or Alaska Native: (AI/AN) includes all individuals who identify with any of the original peoples of North America and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. Did you know the word “Tennessee” comes from a Cherokee Indian name? It stems from Tanasi, which was the name of a major Cherokee town in southeastern Tennessee. However, the Cherokee Indians were not the only native people of this region. The original inhabitants of the area that is now Tennessee included the Cherokee Indians, the Chickasaw Indians, The Koasati Indians, the Quapaw tribe, the Shawnee Indians, and the Yuchi tribe. It is important to recognize the history of the area we occupy. Learn more about the history of Native Americans Tribes of Tennessee at Tennessee Indian Tribes and Languages (native-languages.org).
Arab: The term Arab is used as an umbrella for a pan-ethnic group of people that is composed of many ethnicities. The Arab people descend from member nations of the Arab League, 22 nations and territories that formed in 1945. There are people who live in these areas that do NOT consider themselves Arabs, such as the Kurd.
Asian: An individual that identifies with one or more nationalities/ethnic groups that originate from the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent.
Black/African American: Black people or African Americans trace their origin to many countries, languages, and ethnicities. African American is accurate for individuals who identify as Americans and trace their ancestry to Africa. For example, Afro-Caribbean American denotes people who identify as Americans and trace their roots to both Africa and the Caribbean. An African is a person of African descent. It is important to recognize that Africans may be various races and some do not identify with Black or African American culture.
Hispanic: Describes a person who shares lineage to a Spanish-speaking country. It is not a prerequisite to speak Spanish.
Latino/Latina/Latinx: Generally, refers to geography, namely Latin America.
Mesoamerican Indigenous: A term that is used to describe Indigenous people from Mexico and Central America.
Middle Eastern: A person or a descendant from the Middle East. The stories and culture of the Middle East ate full of rich history. The Middle Eastern countries are: Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Northern Cyprus, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Afghanistan and Pakistan, are not included in the Middle East. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Djibouti, and Somalia, are referred to as part of the Greater Middle East.
Native Hawaiian: An individual who is Native Hawaiian or a descendant of Native Hawaiian people are the aboriginal Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islanders and/or their descendants.
Pacific Islander: An individual who identifies or descends from the Pacific Islands or ancestry. There are three major sub-regions: Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia.
Persian: Persian can refer to people of Iran and a language. When referring to the people, Persians are Iranians who speak the Persian language, called Farsi.
Reference: Hemingway Editor
- Is my content free from jargon, acronyms, and other language that may be unfamiliar to my intended audience?
- If I am using acronyms or abbreviations, do I spell out the full word or phrase on first reference?
- Is the reading and comprehension level appropriate for my intended audience?
- Is my writing or speech clear and concise?
- Does my content layout resize and adjust based on the view port? For example, is my content as intelligible and user-friendly when accessed on a mobile phone as on a desktop computer?
- Can users navigate my content using only a keyboard (no mouse)?
- Does my content load quickly, even for users with limited internet access?
- Have I provided a way for users to give feedback to improve the accessibility of my content?
Resource: aHrefs Alt Text Generator
- Have I included descriptive, proofread alt text for all images and figures?
- Does my alt text avoid acronyms?
- Have I replaced generic descriptors with proper nouns, as applicable? For example, a more specific description for “a person in a business suit speaks with employees seated around a conference table” may be “CEO Margot Alvarez speaks with Acme Corporation employees seated around a conference table.”
- Does my alt text provide a robust experience for non-sighted users?
- Does my alt text convey any “flat text” included in the image?
- Are my alt text descriptions gender-neutral?
- For infographics and charts, have I provided a text-based summary as alt text or in the caption?
Resource: Coolors Color Contrast Checker
- If there are charts, graphs, or text in my image, do they meet contrast standards for readability?
- Have I considered how my content will appear for color-blind users?
- If there is text in my image, is it large enough to be read easily?
Resource: Notta SRT/Caption File Generator (free for limited use)
- Have I generated and uploaded a proofread caption file?
- Have I kept graphics and text clear of the area where closed captioning will appear?
- For instances where closed captioning is not available, have I included burned-in captions?
Text and Graphics
- Is my text large enough to read from a distance?
- Do graphics and text meet contrast standards for accessibility?
- Are graphics or text on screen long enough to be fully perceived and understood?
- Does my video avoid flashing or strobe effects?
- Does my video avoid shaky shots or rapid pans?
Transcripts and Bookmarks
- Have I provided a complete, proofread transcript alongside my video file?
- Have I provided descriptive transcripts for scenes with limited audio? Example: “visual footage of ROTC members running in the woods.”
- Have I added bookmarks or chapter markers as appropriate?
- Have I generated and uploaded a proofread caption file?
- Have I provided a complete, proofread transcript alongside my audio file?
Social Media Posts
- Have I limited emojis to two or less?
- Do my emojis appear at the beginning or end of my text (and not in the middle)?
- If a screen reader were to skip my emojis, would my post still make sense?
- Are the words in my hashtags delineated through capitalization? (Ex. #ThisWorks)
- Have I been thoughtful in my use of hashtags? (#LessIsMore)
- Am I using capitalization intentionally? Remember: screen readers read capital letters individually instead of as a word.
- Have I avoided using non-native fonts?
- Have I avoided instructions based solely on location on the page? For example, “check out the link below” may not make sense for all viewports or readers.
- Have I followed the accessibility best practices for any attached images, videos, or audio files?
Including Webpages, Slide Decks, Text Files, and Emails
- Does my page or document have a title defined in the metadata?
- Does my title make sense and describe the contents?
Structure and Hierarchy
- Am I using defined headings appropriately throughout my document?
- Am I using defined lists?
- In exporting my document, have I ensured that bookmarks are included?
- Have I tagged my links (and not just relied on auto-generation)?
- Have I provided appropriate screen tips and descriptions for links?
- Is my linked text 100 characters or less?
- Have I avoided using the long-form url as my linked text?
- Have I defined the header rows and/or first columns in my tables?
- Have I split complex or nested tables into individual tables?
- Are my tables being used to organize information, or am I using them for aesthetics only? Avoid the latter.
Have I followed the accessibility best practices for any attached or embedded images, videos, or audio files?
When creating urls online, place dashes between words for easier reading. For example set your url as etsu.edu/an-example, not etsu.edu/anexample.