Episcopal Church Writing Style Guide


As the AP Stylebook notes, writing about race-related issues “calls for thoughtful consideration, precise language, and discussions with others of diverse backgrounds whenever possible” about “what language is most appropriate, accurate and fair.” Seek to avoid broad labels and generalizations—remember that “race and ethnicity are one part of a person’s identity,” and be aware that certain words or phrases can have negative connotations to some people and not to others. 

As noted in this 2022 General Convention resolution, “When referring to a smaller group of people that share a historical, cultural, or ethnic identity, we commit to using the specific terms and names that those groups have widely embraced for themselves in our documents and church communications.”

Defining race and ethnicity: Race is understood as a social construct in which people are grouped according to common biological or physical traits. Ethnicity refers to a person’s shared culture or heritage, distinguished by language, customs, practices, etc. 

PLEASE NOTE: The guidance provided below closely follows that of the AP Stylebook, widely used by journalists and writers. In some cases, The Episcopal Church’s ethnic missioners, who work closely and daily with Episcopalians of various races and ethnicities, offer additional insights and/or preferences on terminology they encounter in their work and ministry. We will include those notes in blue in the entries below.

  • African American: No hyphen. Acceptable for Black people who live in the U.S., though the terms “Black” and “African American” are not always interchangeable. (Black Americans of Caribbean heritage often refer to themselves as Caribbean American, for instance.) When possible, ask someone how they would like to be identified, and be specific when relevant. The keynote speaker is Senegalese American. Many Somali Americans live in Minnesota.
    • The Episcopal Church Office of African Descent Ministries prefers the terminology “people/person of African descent” to refer to all those born on the continent of Africa and of the African diaspora.
  • America / American(s): As a guiding principle, be sensitive to context when using these terms. Given the multinational reality of The Episcopal Church, which includes dioceses in Central America, Latin America, and South America, we recommend using “the U.S.,” “the United States,” or “U.S. citizens,” instead of “America” or “Americans,” in references to the United States of America (USA). 
  • American Indians / Native Americans: Acceptable terms to refer to U.S. groups (two or more people) with different tribal affiliations. Natives acceptable on second reference. When referring to an individual, use the name of a tribe whenever possible.The speaker is a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. See also Indian below.
    • Alaska Natives: Term for the collective Indigenous groups in Alaska.
    • First Nation: Preferred term for native tribes in Canada.
    • Native Hawaiian: Term for members of the ethnic group indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands.
    • Indigenous: Capitalize; refers to original inhabitants of a place. See also Indigenous below
    • Tribe: Capitalize when part of a formal name. The Apache Tribe of Oklahoma.
  • anti-Asian sentiment: Avoid this vague euphemism and seek to be specific about what occurred, such as “anti-Asian hate crime.” Alternative phrases include “anti-Asian bias,” “anti-Asian racism,” and “anti-Asian violence,” among others.
  • anti-racism: Hyphenate. 
  • antisemitism: No hyphen; lowercase “S.” These are unified terms referring to prejudice or discrimination against Jews. See also AP Stylebook’s entry on “antisemitism”; International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s “Spelling of antisemitism”
  • Arab American: No hyphen. Acceptable for an American of Arab descent; when possible, include a person’s original country: Egyptian American, Lebanese American.
  • Asian American: No hyphen. Acceptable for an American of Asian descent; when possible, include a person’s original country: Filipino American, Japanese American. Avoid using Asian—which is used to describe people from Asia—as shorthand for Asian American when possible.
    • The Episcopal Church’s Asiamerica Ministries uses “Asian” for those born in Asia (first generation); and “Asian American” for those born in the U.S. They also emphasize using a person’s individual country whenever possible.
  • Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders: Though the acronym AAPI is widely used by people within these communities, it should be spelled out on first reference, unless in a direct quotation or name of an organization or movement. 
  • Black (adj.): Capitalize in racial, ethnic, or cultural references and use as an adjective: Black people, Black colleges, Black literature. Do not use Black as a singular or plural noun.
    • The Episcopal Church’s African Descent Ministries prefers to use “people/person of African descent” to refer to all those born on the continent of Africa and of the African diaspora.
  • Black Lives Matter: Global movement begun in 2013. Acceptable uses: Black Lives Matter as a noun or the Black Lives Matter movement. The acronym BLM is acceptable on second reference.
  • Brown (adj.): Avoid this imprecise term in cultural, ethnic, or racial references unless in a direct quotation (in which case, capitalize). Interpretations of what the term includes vary widely. (Note: This follows Associated Press guidance; the Black and Hispanic journalists’ national associations indicate Brown is acceptable as a cultural designation.) 

  • Hispanic: Often used as an “umbrella term” describing people who are from a Spanish-speaking country or ancestry. AP guidance is that “Hispanic” is acceptable to refer to those in the U.S. who are from a Spanish-speaking culture or from Latin America. Whenever possible, be more specific: Mexican American, Puerto RicanSee also Latino(s), Latina(s), Latinx below.
    • The Episcopal Church’s Latino Ministries Office prefers Latino or Latino American to Hispanic.

  • Indian: Use only to refer to people from India; do not use as shorthand for American Indian. Indian is acceptable as part of a proper name, such as Indian Country, or the Metlakatla Indian Community in Alaska.

  • Indigenous: Capitalize; refers to original inhabitants of a place. Indigenous people from multiple countries joined the celebration; Indigenous Peoples Day is a holiday celebrating the original inhabitants of North America. The Episcopal Church is examining its history with Indigenous boarding schools. 
    • The Episcopal Church’s Indigenous Ministries Office uses “Indigenous” as referred to by the United Nations to describe people colonized by another nation, not just original inhabitants.

  • Latino(s) (m. or collective) / Latina(s) (f.): Noun or adjective for those whose ancestors were from a Spanish-speaking culture or from Latin America (where Spanish, Portuguese, and English—among other languages—are spoken). Preferred over “Hispanic.” When possible, be more specific: Puerto Rican, Mexican American, Cuban. See also Hispanic above
  • Latinx: Some prefer this gender-neutral term instead of Latinos (collective); current AP guidance says to use it only in quotations, organization names, or if an individual requests it. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists notes that “for those who identify with two or more Latin American cultural or racial identities, Latinx is a term that is all-inclusive.” See also Cultural Competency Handbook, p. 7 (National Association of Hispanic Journalists)
    • The Episcopal Church’s Office of Latino Ministries prefers not to use Latinx, though it acknowledges that some within its ministry sphere do use the term. It also notes that Latine is seeing more usage as a gender-neutral form of Latino. 
  • minority (adj.) / minorities: Seek to avoid these imprecise terms. If referencing groups that historically have been (and some continue to be) denied access to mainstream cultural, economic, social, and political participation, options include “historically marginalized communities” or “marginalized groups.” Be specific about the race(s) or group(s) being referred to whenever possible.  
  • multicultural: One word, no hyphen.
  • multiethnic: One word, no hyphen.
  • multiracial: One word, no hyphen.
  • people of color: Lowercase and spell out. Avoid the acronym POC (also BIPOC and BAME) unless used in a direct quote. When possible, be specific about race. The poll showed that Latino and Black Americans have felt the most financial impact from the pandemic, not The poll showed that people of color have felt the most financial impact from the pandemic. 
  • slaves / enslaved people: Both terms are acceptable. Many prefer the term enslaved person/people to separate identity from circumstances; some prefer slave to emphasize the circumstances. When possible, determine an individual’s preference.
  • White / white (adj): Uppercase and use as an adjective, not noun, to describe race: The study showed that White participants found the curriculum extremely helpful. Lowercase when referencing racist actions or terms: white supremacy, white supremacists. (Note: The uppercase guidance follows that of the national associations of Black and Hispanic journalists but not current AP style.)
    • Explanatory note: Our decision to capitalize “White” in race descriptions seeks to reinforce The Episcopal Church’s efforts to encourage people of every racial background to claim and understand their own racial identity, and also to acknowledge that people of every race have a stake and a role in the work of racial reconciliation and healing.