NACAC Guidelines for Gender-Inclusive Language

During the Annual Membership Meeting last month in Salt Lake City, members approved a proposal to “change the gender-specific ‘his/her’ language to ‘their and they’” in a section of the NACAC Bylaws.

In response, the association immediately made changes to all related references in the Bylaws and Code of Ethics and Professional Practices. With other NACAC literature and publications, we have been moving toward revising the language over the past two years after we adopted guidelines on gender-inclusive language from the Associated Press Stylebook, the association’s style guide.

NACAC’s revised writing style now follows these guidelines: 

They, them, their — In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. But in some cases, using the singular they makes English a more efficient language, helps avoid awkward sentence constructions, and allows you to avoid making assumptions about the gender of a person you don’t know. As such, use of they/them/their as a singular and/or gender-neutral pronoun is acceptable in limited cases, particularly when the alternative wording is overly awkward, clumsy, or non-inclusive. Other gender-neutral pronouns, such as xe or ze, can be used when referring to individuals quoted in Journal of College Admission stories or Admitted blog posts. In those cases, be sure to explain the word choice for readers who are unfamiliar with the terms: Johnson, who goes by the gender-neutral pronoun ze, has been working in college admission counseling for more than a decade. When using them/they/their as singular pronouns, be sure your phrasing does not imply more than one person. Whenever possible, use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence.

Journal of College Admission and Sensitivity Readers

In addition, the Fall 2018 issue of the Journal of College Admission will be devoted to marginalized students and their experiences in the college admission process. To help ensure that each article is free from internalized bias and negatively charged language, we consulted with sensitivity readers who are members of the marginalized group and/or an expert in the subject matter. They read each article for issues of representation and instances of bias on the page. We took this additional step in our editing process to offer an unbiased assessment of what these students experience, how we can help them individually, and our role in fulfilling society’s broader goals for access and diversity.

Watch your mail for the fall issue of the Journal. Contact Shanda Ivory at if you have questions about our style guide or use of sensitivity readers.

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