Inclusive language

Language is one of the most powerful tools we have as human beings, and it is important to make sure we are using it to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome.

Therefore, we need to ensure that language evolves over the years so as to not exclude people. Inclusive language avoids biases, slang, or expressions that discriminate against groups of people based on race, gender, or socioeconomic status. CiA is committed to use inclusive language. This is also demanded especially from multi-cultural nations such as the United States of America and the European Community. Many U.S. enterprises have started already to implement the usage of inclusive language in technical documentation including handbooks, data sheets, and product descriptions. There are general guidelines for inclusive language by the Linguistic Society of America (LSA). Also, ISO provides inclusive language recommendations in its ISO House Style editing rules.

Use gender-neutral language

Use “they”, “them”, and “their” instead of “she” or “he”, “him” or “her”, and “his” or “her”. Avoid using words that are unnecessarily gender-specific; for example, write: “The chairpersons are responsible to manage the meetings” rather than “The chairmen are responsible to manage the meetings”.

Table 1: Gender-neutral language examples
Gender-neutral (new) Gendered (old)
business manager; executive; agent; representative (plural: business people; business community) businessman
chair; chairperson chairman
artisan; craftworker craftsman
native country fatherland
supervisor foreman
person or individual man
staff a project; hire personnel; employ staff man a project
artificial; synthetic; manufactured; industrial; [relevant verb, e.g. made, created, caused] by human beings man-made
people, humanity; human beings; the human race; men and women; homo sapiens; the public; society mankind
staff; labor; workforce; personnel; workers; human resources manpower
go-between, intermediary middleman
first language; native language mother tongue
police officer (plural: police) policeman/men
spokesperson; spokesman or woman (for specific person) spokesman
average or ordinary person common man
meddler-in-the-middle man-in-the-middle

The terms “male” and “female” are sometimes used to describe electronic and mechanical connectors or fasteners. These terms should be replaced with, for example, “plug” and “socket”. CiA does this since about 20 years.

Avoid stereotype assumptions

Avoid stereotyped assumptions about the roles of men and women or people of different ages and backgrounds. For example, do not assume that a construction worker is a man or that an older person does not possess skills in using modern technology. When writing about groups of people, use language that highlights that they are individual people with specific characteristics in common rather than a group defined only by that characteristic. For example, write “people with a visual impairment” rather than “the blind and partially sighted”. Do not write, “handicapped people”, better is “people with disabilities.”

Use respectful language

Avoid terminology related to race or disparaging human rights. The terms “master” and “slaves” are misunderstood. In communication technology the term “master/slave” is used to describe a hierarchical relation. Use “commander” and “responder” in combination with node, device, and network. Use “primary” and “secondary” to substitute “master” and “slave” in conjunction with clock. The term “multi-master” is often used to describe the CAN protocol, but it does not reflect properly the CAN data link layer: Just delete it.

Table 2: Neutral language examples
Neutral (new) Disrespectful (old)
commander/responder (node, device, network, etc.) master/slave (node, device, network, etc.)
primary/secondary (clock, timer, etc.) master/slave (clock, timer, etc.)
blocklist, denylistblacklist
allowlist whitelist


Non-inclusive terms are used for many years. These are well known – some of them since generations of engineers. They are used in handbooks, data sheets, specifications, standards, patents, whitepapers, presentation handouts, conference proceedings, etc. CiA is committed to replace them by inclusive language terms in all of its provided hardcopies and online media including contributions in social media.