“Racism,” by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

March 29, 2019; Poynter

NPQ loves to watch the evolution in the use of language in how we talk about social dynamics. For instance, in January we noted that “justice” had been the most-looked-up word of the year in 2018, according to Merriam-Webster. We chose to see that as a good thing. This story is about an advisory on how journalists should word stories concerning an issue many do not like to face head-on—that is, race.

Last Friday, the Associated Press updated its style guide for journalists, advising all that racism should be called “racism” without any softening tricks of language. It advises against the use of such weak-kneed terms as “racially charged,” “racially tinged,” or “racially motivated” in favor of just plain “racist” or “racism.” It cautions at the same time that while race may not always be a relevant factor in reporting a story, where it has been considered to have played a part, it should be named straight out when it is determined to be properly descriptive.

The style guide also advises against the use of hyphens in terms like “African American” or “Chinese American” because their use serves to divide rather than to connect.—Ruth McCambridge