Words and Phrases to Avoid

A short list of offensive and micro-aggressive words and phrases to avoid, along with explanations of why they are problematic and suggested alternatives.


This page is a list of some words and phases to avoid that are less commonly known to be harmful, with brief explanations of why they are harmful. For the sake of brevity, I’m not including things that are more commonly known to be harmful. Because finding alternative language can be an important part of changing language use, I have also listed several possible replacements for each term.

For those looking for a fuller discussion of ableist language in particular, I recommend “Ableism/Language” by Lydia X. Z. Brown (Austistic Hoya). This is a comprehensive glossary of ableist language that includes a lengthy list of non-ableist alternatives. One of the great things about this resource is that it is a living document that incorporates feedback from disabled community members.

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