Resources for Overcoming DEI Jargon Barriers to Entry

Picture of dictionary page with the term, "Diversity" highlighted in pink.

From corporate offices to local town halls, DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) jargon can often be used in everyday conversations. For many, this can feel like a barrier to fostering openness and mutual understanding for people who want to meaningfully engage in conversation but aren’t sure how.

We’re sharing the below resources and articles to help facilitate conversation and provide the tools for people to understand the context for certain DEI terms so that they can avoid misunderstandings and promote diversity in an informed and inclusive way. While these resources are meant to be informative, they should be treated as suggestions for use alongside the personal experiences of people who you’re working and interacting with.

American Psychological Association: Inclusive Language Guidelines – A glossary of terms and guidelines aiming to raise awareness of and raise support for culturally sensitive terms and phrases. For instance, the APA recommends using terms like “person living with a mental illness” rather than saying someone is “mentally ill.”

GLAAD: An Ally’s Guide to Terminology – Guidelines on proper and respectful terminology when discussing members of the LGBT community. For example, when discussing a person’s sexual orientation, steer away from “sexual preference” as the term can suggest an element of choice in the matter.

-Americans with Disabilities Act National Network: Guidelines for Writing About People with Disabilities – A factsheet of parameters for how to respectfully write about individuals with disabilities. Aim to use person-first language – instead of “paraplegic man” use “man with paraplegia.”

In addition to resources meant to positively educate individuals, there are also helpful databases of information outlining potentially offensive and hateful language, some of which are listed below.

-Anti-Defamation League: Glossary of Extremism – A database of terms frequently used by extremist groups and movement.

-Our Shared Future: Key Terms and Phrases – A list of definitions of key terms related to race and racism in the United States.

While the resources above provide valuable insight, listening to others and their preferences will always provide the most valuable context for how to speak about complex issues with specific language associated with them. There is always more to learn, and it is key to remain open-minded to shifting terms and landscapes.

RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit


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