We wrestle with language on the daily. The struggle to make ourselves understood is a constant – whether through a dashed-off text, hours of online coronavirus-lockdown meetings, or work emails. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we make a mess of communication.
That’s why I love a good style guide. There’s a precision to feeling like there’s a “right” way to use language. In this moment, every form of communication feels more fraught. We’re displaced from our “normal” lives, and the context of our communities change rapidly. I’ve heard some version of “I don’t want to sound insensitive/ignorant/uncaring, but I’m honestly not sure what to call people.” I’ve also said some version of this. The way we were taught the English language simply doesn’t hold up right now, and that’s okay.
Naming is a way to define an experience, but our lives are more complex than any words. Luckily, we have our entire lives to keep learning from each other! Below are some style guides and resources to keep the conversation flowing…
Image credit: My first impulse was to pick some Mel Bochner, but there are so many goodies in digital collections. I found this Willie Cole blackboard via The Studio Museum in Harlem. A.R.T. (in the new world order), 1994. Museum purchase made possible by a gift from E.T. Williams and Auldlyn Higgins Williams.
Learning It up!
- A quick history of POC (people of color) in The Washington Post
- Why Black gets a capital B in the Associated Press
- Latinx or not? Looking at usage in The New Yorker
- Need clarity about gender and pronouns? Here’s a how-to guide from the University of Wisconsin
- Soul Fire Farm digs deep into multilingual Language Justice
- Coverage guidance from the newly launched Trans Journalists Association
- Merriam-Webster changes the dictionary definition of racism