Writing About People

We write the same way we build apps: with a person-first perspective. Whether you’re writing for an internal or external audience, it's important to write for and about other people in a way that’s compassionate, inclusive, and respectful. Being aware of the impact of your language will help make MailChimp a better place to work and a better steward of our values in the world. In this section we'll lay out some guidelines for writing about people with compassion, and share some resources for further learning.

Age

Don’t reference a person’s age unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing. If it is relevant, include the person’s specific age, offset by commas.

  • The CEO, 16, just got her driver’s license.

Don’t refer to people using age-related descriptors like “young,” “old,” or “elderly.”

Disability

Don’t refer to a person’s disability unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing. If you need to mention it, use language that emphasizes the person first: ”she has a disability” rather than “she is disabled.”

When writing about a person with disabilities, don’t use the words “suffer,” “victim,” or “handicapped.” “Handicapped parking” is OK.

Gender and sexuality

Don’t call groups of people “guys.” Don’t call women “girls.”

Avoid gendered terms in favor of neutral alternatives, like “server” instead of “waitress” and “businessperson” instead of “businessman.”

It’s OK to use “they” as a singular pronoun.

Use the following words as modifiers, but never as nouns:

  • lesbian
  • gay
  • bisexual
  • transgender
  • trans
  • LGBT

Don’t use these words in reference to LGBT people or communities:

  • homosexual
  • queer
  • lifestyle
  • preference

Don’t use “same-sex” marriage, unless the distinction is relevant to what you’re writing. (Avoid “gay marriage.”) Otherwise, it’s just “marriage.”

When writing about a person, use their preferred pronouns. If you’re uncertain, just use their name.

Hearing

Use “deaf” as an adjective to describe a person with significant hearing loss. You can also use “partially deaf” or “hard of hearing.”

Medical conditions

Don’t refer to a person’s medical condition unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing.

If a reference to a person’s medical condition is warranted, use the same rules as writing about people with physical disabilities and emphasize the person first. Don’t call a person with a medical condition a “victim.”

Mental and cognitive conditions

Don’t refer to a person’s mental or cognitive condition unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing. Never assume that someone has a medical, mental, or cognitive condition.

Don’t describe a person as “mentally ill.” If a reference to a person’s mental or cognitive condition is warranted, use the same rules as writing about people with physical disabilities or medical conditions and emphasize the person first.

Vision

Use the adjective “blind” to describe a person who is unable to see. Use “low vision” to describe a person with limited vision.