Language That Doesn't Say What We Mean

Language that doesn't say what we mean can often serve to avoid directly addressing what we really need to say. Using euphemisms, vagueness, and inaccurate words can get in the way of meaningful dialogue; PARC encourages you to be transparent around what you mean.

Instead of:
Suggested Alternatives
Explanation
“Everything going on right now” Police brutality, protests, BLM, COVID-19, etc. Name what you are referring to! Being vague about important issues risks miscommunication and can also avoid accountability.
Committed suicide, failed/successful suicide, completed suicide Died by suicide; suicided; killed themself These verbs frame suicide as a crime (committed) or an achievement (fail, successful, completed), implying judgment about suicidality.

Child prostitute, sex with underage person

Non-consensual sex

Child who has been trafficked, rape

Rape

 

Sex with someone without their consent is rape; it is important to name this.
Abusive relationships Relationship with a person who is abusive Relationships don’t perpetrate abuse; people do. It is important to name that someone is responsible.

Victim

Survivor

Person who has experienced…

Person who has been impacted by…

These labels can make a person feel reduced to an experience. Person-first language is great here, unless the person identifies with either word. If they do, honor them by using that word!

Female-identifying

Male-identifying

Female-bodied

Male-bodied

Depending on who you mean:

Women, including trans women

Cisgender women, men

Assigned female/male at birth

These terms imply that a person’s identity isn’t “real” or that their body defines them in a different way than they might identify.

"I'm going to kill myself"

"I'm really upset."

"I'm so overwhelmed"

Joking about suicide is very harmful and belittles the problem as well as people who may be seriously considering suicide or have in the past.

Facebook stalking (in reference to lurking someone's social media)

Lurking, researching online

Using stalking to refer to lurking someone's social media profile can make light of experiences of actual stalking, which can be very dangerous and life-altering. 

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