Anonymous British Army personnel CREDIT BFBS
Anonymous British Army personnel.
Tri-Service

'Speech without offence': MOD releases guide for inclusive language

The Ministry of Defence says the 2021 terminology document is not 'political correctness gone mad' or an attempt to police language.

Anonymous British Army personnel CREDIT BFBS
Anonymous British Army personnel.

UK defence has released a guide to help troops speak respectfully as language 'evolves'.

The Inclusive Language Guide 2021 sets out to advise service members on "speech without offence".

Written by the Ministry of Defence's (MOD) Diversity and Inclusion Directorate and inspired by the Wigston 2019 report on inappropriate behaviour within the forces, it hopes to become a reference point for many.

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More inclusive ways to address disability, race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation and social mobility have been detailed.

The MOD wants personnel to put the 'person first' when speaking to others, only referencing characteristics when relevant and doing so in specific ways.

When necessary, personnel are encouraged not to conflate the term 'woman' with 'female' – the latter is "perceived by many as reducing a woman to her reproductive parts".

'The women in the platoon' is said to be a more inclusive phrase than 'the females in the platoon'.

Not addressing an individual's race or disability out of context, asking how others self-identify and using neutral language – not based on appearance – are all part of the step-change.

Personnel challenging others on their choice of words are encouraged to be polite and prepared to 'explain the logic' behind their views.

Watch: The Wigston 2019 report found an "unacceptable level of inappropriate behaviour" in the military.

Meanwhile, those being challenged should not "take it personally" and should support junior peers to raise challenges with more senior colleagues, according to the guide.

Terms such as 'colleague' have been offered as alternatives to 'girl' or 'boy', while all personnel have been asked to avoid terms such as 'chav' or 'common' with reference to someone's socio-economic status.

As for gender, non-binary or transgender personnel can make a "big impact" by including their pronouns in email signatures and public profiles, the document says.

Defence recommends adding a 'plus' to the LGBT umbrella term to acknowledge other identities and orientations outside of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

"We need to normalise that it's OK to get it wrong sometimes, as long as it's not done with intent," said Dom Fairlie, Chair of the Civilian LGBT+ Network shOUT.

"Those within the LGBT+ community are really not offended if you genuinely stumble, we all do from time to time, so it's OK to correct yourself and not be embarrassed by it."