Encyclopedia Britannica defines geopolitics as “analysis of the geographic influences on power relationships in international relations” and notes that it has come to be used as a synonym for international politics (Deudney, 2013). When writing about geopolitics it is important to consider the point of view, tone, and imagery that the language puts forth. Some words conjure particular images or associations and can affect the way that the subject is seen (Levisen and Fernández, 2021).
Consider who is controlling the narrative. As noted in the introduction to the language section of this guide, “A dominant culture or set of group dynamics can result in silencing [voices], without any individual intending to do so” (Woodley, 2021). In the paper, “Journalism studies still needs to fix Western bias,” Thomas Hanitzsch argues that the field still struggles with Western bias despite efforts to change. He notes that Western countries are both the majority producer and subject of research, and “in part, this Western dominance has resulted from, and is reinforcing, a concentration of academic and textbook publishers in the Anglo-Saxon world using English as the default language” (2019: 214). Although he is specifically referring to the field of journalism studies, the same can be said for scholarly communication as a whole (Spragg, Skopec).
Is the characteristic in question necessary to the story? Would the same information be included for someone in a situation that could be considered the opposite of the one in question? For example, consider if it’s relevant to mention that someone is from a lower income family when the background of someone from a higher income family would not be mentioned. If it is, the APA recommends being specific to reduce ambiguity.
Guidance on some general terms:
act of terror
Can be used “when referring to coercive actions, whether violent or nonviolent, designed to create fear for the purpose of political or ideological manipulation” (Global Press Journal).
Use instead of more politicized words that may carry bias, such as rebel, radical, guerilla, militant, or terror group.
Do not use culture to refer to countries, races, or other large groups of people who have similarities but may not share a specific cultural element.
Do not use to describe people.
Do not use to describe people.
Be mindful that this word is based on the writer’s perspective. It may be used to describe specific things that do not originate in the country a story is being told from (i.e., foreign language).
Refers to time. Do not use in place of sophisticated or advanced when describing a person, place, or thing.
Do not use the phrase street children or other common variations to describe children who live or work in vulnerable situations.
Do not use to describe people.
Do not use. Terms such as ethnic conflict or civil war may be appropriate.
Deudney, D. H. (2013, June 12). Geopolitics. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/geopolitics
The Diversity Style Guide. (2022). https://www.diversitystyleguide.com/
Global Press Journal. Global Press Style Guide. https://globalpressjournal.com/style-guide/
Global Press Style Guide Tip Sheet. (2020). https://www.poynter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/style_guide_tip_sheet_poynter.pdf
Hanitzsch, T. (2019). Journalism studies still needs to fix Western bias. Journalism, 20(1), 214–217. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884918807353
Levisen, C., & Fernández, S. S. (2021). Words, People and Place: Linguistics meets Popular Geopolitics. Journal of Postcolonial Linguistics, (5), 1-11. https://iacpl.net/jopol/issues/journal-of-postcolonial-linguistics-52021/words-people-and-place/
Mungai, C. (2019, July 3). “Foreign” lands are not foreign in a globalized world—and it is time international news media realized this. Nieman Reports. https://niemanreports.org/articles/foreign-lands-are-not-foreign-in-a-globalized-world-and-it-is-time-international-news-media-realized-this/
Rozaki, E., Kovačić, V., Charalampous, N., González, R. L., & Gabriels, W. (2020). Inclusive Communication Manual. Erasmus Student Network AISBL. https://siem-project.eu/documents/ESN_Inclusive_Communication_Manual.pdf
Skopec, M., Issa, H., Reed, J. et al. The role of geographic bias in knowledge diffusion: a systematic review and narrative synthesis. Res Integr Peer Rev 5, 2 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41073-019-0088-0
Spragg, L. (2021, February 23). Decolonising Academia: Is AUP’s New Partnership Programme Doing Enough to Challenge Western Bias in Scholarly Publishing? Medium. https://medium.com/digital-publishing-strategy/decolonising-academia-is-aups-new-partnership-programme-doing-enough-to-challenge-western-bias-e64f2f514d77
Thomas, H., & Hirsch, A. (2016). A Progressive’s Style Guide. Sum Of Us. https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.sumofus.org/images/SUMOFUS_PROGRESSIVE-STYLEGUIDE.pdf
Woodley, L., Pratt, K., Bakker, A., Bertipaglia, C., Dow, E. El Zein, R., Johns, B., Kuwana, E., Lower, E., Roca, A., & Santistevan, C. (2021). CSCCE Glossary: Inclusive language in community building. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5718783
World Health Organization. (2013). WHO style guide (2nd edition). https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/sg13_web_v4%20pdf%20-%20adobe%20reader.pdf
The terms Global North and Global South are often used in scholarly communication, and the popularity of Global South in particular has expanded rapidly in recent years (Haug). While there isn’t one agreed-upon definition, Global South is generally used as a synonym of or replacement for “developing countries” or “Third World countries.” However, like many of the umbrella terms mentioned in these guidelines, there is disagreement about its use (GSSC). It is generally seen as a better alternative to “Third World”, which is now considered demeaning or pejorative (Silver). However, some argue that “Global South” is just as problematic (Teixeira da Silva). The Global Press Style Guide recommends avoiding “developing world”, “emerging economy”, and “Global South” in favor of including the relevant economic data. Another alternative is to use the World Bank’s designations, which are updated annually based on each economy’s gross national income (GNI). The classifications are low, lower middle, upper middle, and high income (Serajuddin, World Bank Group).
It should be noted that Global North and Global South are not technically geographical references. Australia, for example, is not considered part of the Global South but lies in the southern hemisphere.
In general, it is best to be specific. Name the locations being discussed or outline the criteria being used. Some examples are included in the table below.
Do not use in place of the United States or residents of the United States. The US is not the only country in the Americas.
Arab; Arab World
Do not use in place of Muslim. When referring to a nation or people from an Arabic-speaking country, it is better to specify the nation/nationality instead.
continental references (e.g., Asian, African)
Do not use to generally describe people, practices, language, or culture. It is better to be more specific.
Do not use to refer to the Eastern Hemisphere, whether geography, language, or culture. Instead, specify the relevant country, context, or culture.
Western world; First World; Third World; Global North; Global South; underdeveloped countries; developing, developed countries; emerging economies
Do not use. It is best to be specific. Possible alternatives include low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high-income countries
Global South Studies Center. (2015, January). Concepts of the Global South. Voices from around the World, 2015(1). https://gssc.uni-koeln.de/en/wissenstransfer/voices-from-around-the-world/concepts-of-the-global-south
Sebastian Haug, Jacqueline Braveboy-Wagner & Günther Maihold (2021) The ‘Global South’ in the study of world politics: examining a meta category, Third World Quarterly, 42:9, 1923-1944, DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2021.1948831
Serajuddin, U., & Hamadeh, N. (2020, July 1). New World Bank country classifications by income level: 2020–2021. World Bank Blogs. https://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/new-world-bank-country-classifications-income-level-2020-2021
Silver, M. (2021, Jan 8). Memo to People of Earth: ‘Third World’ Is An Offensive Term! NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/01/08/954820328/memo-to-people-of-earth-third-world-is-an-offensive-term
Teixeira da Silva JA. Rethinking the use of the term ‘Global South’ in academic publishing. European Science Editing 2021;47. DOI: 10.3897/ese.2021.e67829 World Bank Group. (n.d.). World Bank Country and Lending Groups. The World Bank. https://datahelpdesk.worldbank.org/knowledgebase/articles/906519-world-bank-country-and-lending-groups
a division of society based on differences of wealth, inherited rank or privilege, profession, occupation, or race; a system of rigid social stratification characterized by hereditary status, marriage within a specific group as required by custom or law and social barriers sanctioned by custom, law, or religion
a group sharing the same economic or social status
the social standing or class of an individual or group. It is often measured as a combination of education, income, and occupation
In their tip sheet for The Journalist’s Resource, Denise-Marie Ordway and Heather Bryant offer the following guidelines:
Avoid stereotypes. People experiencing poverty are often portrayed as victims, criminals, or exceptions. This extends to a person’s habits, such as smoking, food choices, cleanliness, or the way they speak. Consider including people who are experiencing poverty in all types of research and narratives, not just those that center on income or poverty or stories of despair. Are the mannerisms being depicted important or do they perpetuate biases?
Avoid overgeneralizations. Consider if an expression really reflects the opinions or values of all. People who are or have experienced poverty can easily be excluded by blanket statements regarding purchasing habits or experiences that are considered “normal,” such as regularly going out for coffee or upgrading to the latest smartphone as soon as it is released.
Consider your audience. All too often, narratives about people experiencing poverty are not written for them. Consider whether a group is being spoken about, for, or to. Is there authority to speak about or for the group? Were they consulted?
Avoid vague terms, obscure references, and jargon. Be specific to avoid ambiguity. Additionally, coded language and pejorative terms should be avoided. For example, do not use “inner city” to mean “predominantly Black neighborhoods” or if a specific area is being referenced.
distressed neighborhoods; disadvantaged; in need; less fortunate; inner city; ghetto; slum; the projects
neighborhoods that are under-resourced/underserved; with high poverty rates; with access to fewer opportunities
homeless people; the homeless; homelessness
people experiencing homelessness; people experiencing unstable housing; housing insecurity
food desert; food stamps; the hungry
food insecurity; food poverty; SNAP (in the US); people experiencing hunger
poverty-ridden; poverty-stricken; poor; the poor; low-class
people experiencing poverty; people with incomes below the federal poverty level; economically insecure; without economic advantages
uneducated; less educated; undereducated; well educated
s tate the specific level of education (e.g., high school diploma)
blue collar; working class
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Socioeconomic status. APA.org. https://www.apa.org/topics/socioeconomic-status/
American Psychological Association. (2019, September). Socioeconomic status. APA Style. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/bias-free-language/socioeconomic-status
Bien-Aimé, S. (2017, August 1). The false divide between “Well educated” and “Less educated.” Conscious Style Guide. https://consciousstyleguide.com/false-divide-well-educated-less-educated/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, December 9). CDC’s Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication. https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/Health_Equity.html
Counseling@Northwestern. (2019, October 16). Inclusive language guide. The Family Institute at Northwestern University. https://counseling.northwestern.edu/blog/inclusive-language-guide/
Inclusive Language in Socioeconomic Status, Culture, Race, Ethnicity. (n.d.). EPFL. https://www.epfl.ch/schools/enac/about/diversity-office/inclusive-language/socioeconomic-status/
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.-a). Caste. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caste
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.-b). Class. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/class
Ordway, D., & Bryant, H. (2018, September 4). Covering poverty: What to avoid and how to get it right. The Journalist’s Resource. https://journalistsresource.org/economics/covering-poverty-avoid-get-right/