Principles for inclusive language

Use words that reflect our diverse world

Inclusive language isn’t about following a list of good and bad words. It’s about taking an approach to your writing that avoids assumptions, stereotypes, and treats people with respect.

Our products are for all kinds of people. The words we use should help them have a great experience. Consider how your language is helping or harming people.

Make content easy to understand

Be inclusive by using plain language. Remove jargon, metaphors, and idioms. Simple wording is proven to help people complete their tasks faster and with higher success rates. It also ensures that you aren’t excluding people by using words that are specific to your context.

Learn from your audience

Rely on the expertise of people who belong to the groups you’re writing about. You can do this by reading resources put out by advocacy groups, or consulting with people from diverse communities. Never assume people from a diverse community want to educate or give feedback – always ask for permission first.

How to describe people

Be clear

When you need to describe a group of people, use clear language that aligns with how people describe themselves.

When you’re not sure, always use person-first language. This language centers the person, rather than their difference. For example, “people with disabilities”, rather than “disabled people” In some circumstances people prefer to use identity-first language to represent themselves, such as in the Deaf community.

You can reduce inaccurate assumptions or stereotypes by improving the way you describe people’s differences. For example:

GoodBetterReason
Alternative text helps people with visual disabilities interact with the user interface.Alternative text helps people who use assistive technology interact with the user interface.Not all people who use assistive technology, like screen readers have visual disabilities. Using this definition is more inclusive, and more accurate.
This project was done in consultation with people of Indigenous backgrounds.This project was done in consultation with First Nations Australians.Use specific terms when referring to racial and ethnic groups. Vague terms don't acknowledge the different experiences of racial and ethnic communities.

Don’t change words used to describe people

Don’t modify phrases to make differences sound positive. Words like “differently abled” or “handi-capable” are patronizing, and don’t fit with the full diversity of human experiences.

Avoiding describing people’s differences can reinforce the prejudices of society. Describing race, ethnicity, disability, age, class, gender, and sexuality isn’t a negative thing, unless these descriptions are being used in discriminatory ways. For example, only use the phrase “people of color” when you don’t have enough information to be more specific.

Avoiding microaggressions

Microaggressions are actions that aren’t intentionally aggressive, but contribute towards an environment that excludes people towards people who belong to marginalized communities. This makes people feel excluded, fatigued, and unseen.

In writing, microaggressions are words that are associated with stereotypes, or phrases that have a negative origin, like “long time no see” – a phrase historically used to make fun of people who spoke limited English, which has now slipped into casual use.

These words may seem inoffensive to some people. Remember that our goal is to do more than just avoid causing offence. We want to create products that include all people.

Avoid metaphors and idioms

Metaphors and idioms are non-literal phrases people use in regular speech. Metaphors are when people compare something to something else (such as “they were like a fish out of water”), while idioms are phrases where the meaning isn’t conveyed by any of the words (such as “between a rock and a hard place”). Idioms are only understood from cultural familiarity with the phrase, which makes them unhelpful if you’re writing for a global audience.

Some metaphors and idioms invoke histories of violence, patriarchy, or colonization. Other metaphors and idioms can confuse people outside of the group, country, or culture the phrase originates from. This creates an environment that includes some people more than others.

When you’re writing content for a wide audience, be literal. Don’t rely on harmful or confusing phrases.

ExampleAlternativeReason
blacklist/whitelistblocklist/allowlistAssociating “black” with negative and “white” with positive experiences perpetuates racial inequity.
killing itdoing great workViolent words are unnecessary, and can cause negative feelings.
Automation in Jira makes issue creation a piece of cake.Automation helps teams create issues faster.Some people won’t have heard the phrase “piece of cake” used this way before, especially if English isn’t their first language. This creates an unnecessary barrier to comprehension that you can avoid by being accurate and literal.

Word use, appropriation, and reclamation

The context and identity of the person using a word or phrase can change whether a word or phrase is helpful or harmful. Sometimes words are used for their original purpose, sometimes they are appropriated, and sometimes words are reclaimed.

Appropriation is when words are used outside of their original context in ways that are hurtful or minimizing to a group of people.

AppropriationProper useReason
Let’s have a powwow about the new logo.I’m taking leave to attend a powwow.Powwows are important cultural gatherings, and using this as a throwaway word to describe a meeting is offensive.
I’m so OCD about deleting my emails.My experiences getting diagnosed with OCD.Avoid using medical and disability related terms as metaphors. It reinforces negative stereotypes.

Reclamation is when a group starts using language that people previously used to harm them, with the intention to make it a positive word or phrase. For example, the word ‘queer’ was previously used as a homophobic term, but now many people describe themselves with the word ‘queer’. Don’t use these words if you don’t belong to the group the word originates from.

Don’t make assumptions about abilities

Don’t use phrasing that makes assumptions about how people experience your product. For example, by making claims about how easy your experience is.

ExampleAlternativeReason
It’s easy to set up your project.Set up your new project in a few steps.It’s more precise about why the workflow is easy, without excluding people based on their abilities.

Words that are misinterpreted as microaggressions

Designers avoid some words related to disabilities because they’re trying to be inclusive. These words aren't microaggressions because words that relate to disabilities aren’t negative words. You only need to avoid using them in a negative context.

You can use them in your product experiences if they help make things clear.

PhrasingReason
Words related to vision, like: "View all Jira issues", "Watch the webinar recording", and "See what Trello can do".People who are blind or low vision aren’t excluded by these words. They still ‘view’ a list of items, in a different way. Where it makes sense to do so, avoid these words. You don’t need to remove them if they’re accurate.
Enabled/disabledDisabled isn't an offensive word. It reflects when people are limited by their environment, and society. Avoid associating the word disabled with negative states. Wherever you can, alternatives to ‘disabled’, like ‘turned off’ or ‘unavailable’ are good.

Techniques for inclusive product experiences

Use they/them pronouns, and gender neutral language

When referring to a person, use the pronouns they tell you to use. When referring to a person or a group of people you don’t know, use they/them pronouns. This makes your product experience more gender inclusive.

ExampleAlternativeReason
Ask your project admin to enable editing permissions on his or her account.Ask your project admin to enable editing permissions on their account.Using they/them pronouns is more inclusive, and easier to read.

Build inclusive forms

When you gather data about people, remember that pre-defined categories don’t accurately reflect the diversity of our world. Form fields can prevent people from using software if they're unable to fit into the schemas we’ve defined for them.

If you need to collect information about people’s identities, give people the option to choose not to answer, or to give a self-defined answer. When gathering information about names, use a “Full name” field instead of separating names by first name, last name, and salutation.

Avoid setting any particular group of people as the default option. This implies that other groups are not the norm, not common, or forces them to navigate and configure things more than others.

One way to avoid this is by not asking for more information than necessary. Often detailed personal information isn’t relevant to our products, so ask yourself if you really need people to identify or group themselves before building this into products.

Be accurate

It can be tempting to keep visual labels short, and hide the descriptive information behind an aria-label. We’re moving away from this approach, because descriptive language also improves the experience for people who don’t use assistive technology.

ExampleAlternativeReason
Ask Atlassian Intelligence about a project or topic within your company’s knowledge base. Learn moreAsk Atlassian Intelligence about a project or topic within your company’s knowledge base. About Atlassian IntelligenceAccurate, descriptive links reduce the cognitive burden we put onto people using our products. For more examples, read alternatives to “learn more” (Atlassians only).
Atlassian Intelligence is great for speeding up your work, and helping you be productive.Use Atlassian Intelligence to find answers, get summaries, and generate content.Don’t use vague promotional language. Describing new features with accuracy builds trust and helps people make informed decisions.
Step 1Create project (Step 1 of 3)Describe tasks accurately, so that people know where they are in their workflow.

Write helpful examples

It can be tempting to use the example text for form fields or search boxes to add fun and delight to your product or platform.

If your example includes an example company name or task, make sure that these are accurate enough to convey what the example is showing.

ExampleAlternativeReason
Ask AI a question, like “Show me all issues in the ‘Donut Plains’ project.”Ask AI a question, like “Show me all issues in the ‘Snack Delivery System’ project.”It’s okay to make your examples fun, but don’t let specific cultural references make it confusing! Keep it universal.

Make alt text concise and consistent

If images provide information, always include alternative text (“alt text”). When you’re writing alternative text, consider how that text will change the screen reader experience.

If you’re working on a product experience with elements that are very repetitive, like iconography, don’t make alternative text too wordy as this will make the experience worse for people who use assistive technology. For example:

Not enough informationToo much informationJust right
Question markJira customer support question. Created by Jira service desk.Support question

If you’re using the same visuals in multiple places, make sure that you use the same alt text every time it appears. The design system helps with this by providing label guidelines for components like modal dialogs and spinners.

Use reference material

Language is changing all the time, so we don’t maintain a list of terms to use or avoid. Use resources like the APA Inclusive Language Guide or AP Stylebook to learn about specific terms.  

We've reorganized this website

These guidelines are here to help you use inclusive language when designing products and platforms. You can access the archived global inclusive language guidelines (Atlassians only), these are deprecated and will be replaced in the future.


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