The Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University has released an online Diversity Style Guide to help journalists and other media professionals write with accuracy and authority about a complex, multicultural society.

The Diversity Style Guide logoThe free guide at offers definitions and guidance on more than 700 terms related to race and ethnicity, disability, religion, gender and sexuality, mental health, and drugs and alcohol – from “A.D.” and “abaya” to “Yonsei” and “Zionist.” The Diversity Style Guide draws from more than 20 ethnic-themed and topic-specific style guides, bringing this information together in one handy place.

The new style guide greatly expands and updates an earlier guide developed by CIIJ’s Newswatch program in the 1990s and last updated in 2002.

“A lot has changed since then,” said Rachele Kanigel, an associate professor of journalism at San Francisco State University and editor of the new guide. “New terms like cisgender, Black Twitter and genderqueer have come into the cultural vocabulary, but journalists don’t always know how to use these terms correctly. This guide aims to inform media professionals so they can write responsibly and accurately about different people and communities.”

The guide addresses thorny questions, such as whether the words Black and White should be capitalized when referring to race and which pronouns to use for people who don’t identify as male or female. “There’s no one right answer to these questions but we try to lay out the discussion and tap experts in the field who have given these issues hard thought,” Kanigel said. “Producing a guide like this truly takes a village.”

Most of the terms in The Diversity Style Guide come, with permission, from media guides produced by the Asian American Journalists Association, Columbia Aging Center, Gender Spectrum, GLAAD, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Center on Disability and Journalism, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, the Religion Newswriters Association, and TEAM Up (Tools for Entertainment and Media). The Diversity Style Guide also draws from the Michigan State University School of Journalism’s “100 Questions and Answers” cultural competence series.

“Many journalists are aware of one or a few of these guides, particularly if they cover a specific beat, but few are familiar with all of them,” said Kanigel, who covered diverse communities as a newspaper reporter in California and North Carolina for 15 years before becoming a journalism professor. “People who come to The Diversity Style Guide website will have all this information together in one place and will also find links to other media guides and diversity resources.”

Kanigel noted this guide is not about political correctness. “It’s about accuracy,” she said. “A lot of media professionals use terms incorrectly or don’t understand the nuances and deeper meanings of words. This guide provides information and context so they can write not just with sensitivity, but with authority.”

The Diversity Style Guide was supported by grants from the College of Liberal and Creative Arts at San Francisco State University and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists. It was reviewed by April Bethea, chair of the SPJ Diversity Committee.

Kanigel is working on a companion book that will expand on the glossary with chapters on how to cover different communities and sensitive issues like suicide, mental health and drugs and alcohol. The Diversity Style Guide book is under contract with Wiley and will be published in 2017 or 2018.

About the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism

Headquartered at San Francisco State University’s Journalism Department, the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism believes that accurate and responsible journalism reflects the changing demographics of the society it serves. The center seeks to make journalism more inclusive from the classroom to the newsroom.

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