During our recent webinar on updating your nonprofit’s style guide for 2024, we addressed head-on how much of the debate around so-called “woke” language actually begins in the nonprofit sector.

That’s often because our organizations’ values call on us to address people’s problems and situations rather than condemning the person experiencing the problem or situation with an unflattering label. Nonprofit language influences the language that others use. In fact, changing the narrative, the stories people tell, and the words they use is one way that nonprofits can see the impact of their work on society at large.

Today, we know folks working in the nonprofit sector are more likely to use identity-first or person-first language. For example, instead of referring to ex-convicts, we might say formerly incarcerated person or a person who was formerly incarcerated.  We are also striving in many ways to be more inclusive with our nonprofit language, especially around gender identity.

During the webinar, we asked the 50+ participants, who are mostly communications staff at nonprofits, which words or phrases they were currently debating or most curious about now.

Here’s the list:

  • Latinx, Latine
  • Stakeholder
  • Clients
  • Low-income, under-resourced, people earning low incomes
  • Marginalized, underserved, underresourced communities
  • BIPOC
  • Sober, clean, substance use and users
  • Native American, American Indian
  • Provider, clinician
  • white v. White
  • Programs v. services
  • Learners, learning differences
  • Human capital, human resources

So, if you are debating these types of terms in your organization as you update the language in your nonprofit style guide, you aren’t alone.

We should get some help this year, as both the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style will publish new editions in 2024. Karen Yin, the curator of the Conscious Style Guide, is also publishing a book this year.

The post Nonprofit Language is Evolving: The Words Debated in Style Guides Today appeared first on Nonprofit Marketing Guide (NPMG).