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NIST Releases Publication Intended to Increase Bias-Free Language in Standards Publications

NIST Releases Publication Intended to Increase Bias-Free Language in Standards Publications

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released to the public new guidance for using inclusive language in standards publications. While the guidance is intended for NIST staff, the publication has been made public since NIST authors often work with industry standards development organizations (SDOs). The guidance provided aims to help writers use language that is both clear and welcoming to all readers.
Kathryn Miller, the Publishing Services Librarian with the Information Services Office at NIST and an author of the publication, stated that the “main goal is to help people think more clearly about what they are trying to communicate. Our readers and collaborators can have diverse backgrounds. We want to consider their needs by helping writers and speakers think critically.”
Using inclusive language in standards publications and proactively thinking about the language used will help avoid any potential misunderstandings. Increasing the use of inclusive language as outlined in the new guidance will help to encourage inclusivity overall so that all readers are able to digest the technical standards with the same understanding and not be impeded by potentially alarming language. 
Key language recommendations include:
  • Consider good, clear word usage rather than using common or colloquial terms. 
  • Consider that biased terms, such as blacklist/whitelist, may introduce comprehension issues. 
  • Avoid terms such as master/slave that perpetuate negative stereotypes or unequal power relationships. 
  • Avoid identifying an individual’s gender unless necessary for comprehension or using terms that assign a gender to inanimate objects, such as male/female connectors.
  • Avoid descriptive terms that are condescending or reductive in favor of language that the groups being described would prefer. 
To read the full guidance with examples, visit: Guidance for NIST Staff on Using Inclusive Language in Documentary Standards (NISTIR 8366)

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