Skip to main content

Race- and ethnicity-inclusive language

Avoid language that expresses bias towards or against a particular race, ethnicity, or indigenous people, or that expresses the belief that some races are inferior to others. These biases can be overt or implied. For example, many expressions use "white" to mean "good" and "black" to mean "bad."

Avoid using terms or expressions from other cultures outside of their original meaning and context. For example, don't use the words "guru," "sherpa," or "ninja" to describe people, programs, or products unless they are part of an official brand name. Using these terms incorrectly can diminish their original significance through cultural appropriation.

Many non-inclusive terms are well-established in the technology industry. If replacing a common term might cause confusion for readers, then refer to the non-inclusive term on the first use and put it in parentheses. For example, "to add a sender's IP address to the blocklist (sometimes called a blacklist)." Afterward, use the inclusive replacement term throughout the rest of the document.

Non-inclusive words and phrases to avoid

Some of the following terms have antiquated uses in technical contexts, whereas others are more applicable to everyday conversation or when writing about people from different races or cultural backgrounds.


The following list isn't exhaustive, and language is constantly evolving. If you're unsure about a term or have other language recommendations to add to this list, please contact the Content Quality team in the #unity-style-guide Slack channel.

IT-specific words and phrases


Black box, white box, gray box
Blackbox, whitebox, graybox

These terms contrast blackness with whiteness. Don't use to refer to methods of software testing or monitoring.

  • Black box testing
  • Black box monitoring
  • White box testing
  • White box monitoring
  • Gray box, grayboxing
  • Opaque box testing
  • Synthetic monitoring
  • Clear box testing
  • Introspective monitoring
  • Prototype, prototyping

Black hat, white hat, gray hat

These terms contrast blackness with whiteness to mean harmful and helpful, respectively. Don't use to refer to software hackers or testers.

  • Black hat hacker, gray hat hacker
  • White hat hacker
  • Unauthorized user, bad actor
  • Computer security expert, security tester

Blacklist, whitelist

By using "black" and "white" to determine whether an entity is excluded or included, respectively, these terms imply that black is bad and white is good.

  • Blacklist
  • Whitelist
  • Graylist, greylist
  • To blacklist
  • To whitelist
  • Blocklist
  • Allowlist
  • Provisional list
  • To deny, to block, to exclude
  • To allow, to include

Final solution

This term refers to the genocide of Jewish people in Europe during World War II. Instead, use "solution" as a standalone term, or use on alternative modifier depending on the context.

  • Final solution
  • Solution
  • Definitive solution
  • Optimal solution
  • Best solution
  • Last solution

First-class, first-class citizen

Where possible, don't use socially-charged terms for technical concepts. Instead, consider terms such as "core feature," "built-in," "top-level."

  • First-class citizen
  • First-class
  • Core feature
  • Built-in
  • Top-level


This term refers to the historical protection of white Americans from voting restrictions intended for African-Americans. Don't use to refer to something that is allowed to violate a rule because it predates the rule. Instead, use an adjective like "legacy" or "exempt."

  • Grandfathered in
  • Exempt
  • Legacy

Master, slave

These terms refer to slavery and the oppression of marginalized groups.

Instead of "master," use the appropriate alternative for the context, such as "primary," "main," "original," "controller," or "initiator." Instead of "slave," use alternatives like "worker" or "replica."

For more information about alternative terms, refer to Microsoft Style Guide: master/slave.

  • Master branch
  • Webmaster
  • Master/slave
  • Main branch, trunk
  • Website administrator
  • Primary/replica
  • Primary/secondary
  • Primary/subordinate
  • Principal/agent

Monkey test, monkey testing

Don't use to refer to tests or testing. Instead, use a more accurate term to describe the specific function. For example, "automated, random tests." Don't use "monkey" to refer to people.

  • Monkey test
  • Monkey testing
  • Automated, random test
  • Automated, random testing


When referring to software products, try to use a more precise term with a clear meaning. For example, use "built-in" to describe a feature that's part of a product. Avoid using native to refer to people.

  • Native
  • Cloud-native
  • Built-in
  • Cloud first

Other problematic words and phrases

The following sections are organized according to the different use cases for each type of expression. Although some terms might belong to more than one category, each term is listed only once.

Corporate culture


Exotic, foreign

These terms imply that non-Western ideas and people are unusual and exclude them from the norm. Remember that what is "foreign" or "exotic" to you is familiar to someone else."

  • Exotic
  • Foreign concept
  • Fancy
  • New concept


This term refers to a traditional type of Japanese theater. Instead, use "political theater."

  • Kabuki
  • Political theater


This term refers to a spiritual practice in Buddhist and Hindu religion. Instead, use "motto," "North Star," or "mission statement."

  • Mantra
  • Motto
  • North Star
  • Mission statement

Open the kimono

This expression originates from harmful stereotypes against Asian women. Instead, use "corporate transparency."

  • Open the kimono
  • Corporate transparency

Tipping point

This term is associated with White families moving out of an area when a certain percentage of the neighborhood is composed of Black families. Instead, use an expression like "point of no return."

  • Tipping point
  • Point of no return
  • Breaking point
  • Milestone

Totem pole, bottom of the totem pole

These expressions are cultural appropriation and desecrate First Nations and indigenous tradition. Instead, use "hierarchy."

  • Totem pole
  • Bottom of the totem pole
  • Hierarchy
  • Bottom of the hierarchy

Tribe, tribal

These terms have negative historical connotations for First Nations and African communities. Instead, use a less figurative term to indicate knowledge held by a group of people.

  • Tribal knowledge
  • Tribal wisdom
  • Institutional knowledge
  • Institutional memory
  • Collective wisdom



Brown bag

Although brown paper bags were often used to carry lunch, this term also alludes to a skin color test traditionally used by African-American sororities and fraternities. Instead of "brown bag lunch" or "brown bag session," use "lunch and learn," "tech talks," or "bring your own lunch."

  • Brown bag lunch
  • Brown bag session
  • Tech talks
  • Lunch and learn


This term refers to a place for immersive learning, experiential learning, or meditation in Japanese culture. Instead, use a precise term that is accurate for the context, such as "training" or "workshop."

  • Dojo
  • Training
  • Workshop

Powwow, pow-wow

This term refers to a significant celebration by many Indigenous communities. Instead, use "meeting," "gathering," or "get together."

  • Powwow
  • Meeting
  • Gathering
  • Get together

Quality descriptors for products, code, or tasks


Black and white

This expression presents black and white as opposites. Instead, use a more precise term such as "clear" or "straightforward."

  • Black and white
  • Clear
  • Straightforward

Cakewalk, takes the cake

These expressions originate from a dance contest where enslaved Black people competed for cake. In general, avoid describing tasks as easy, simple, or quick, because not all users have the same skills or experience.

  • Cakewalk
  • Takes the cake
  • Easy, simple
  • Wins


This term refers to a poor urban area occupied primarily by a minority group or groups. When referring to code that isn't production-ready, instead use more precise terms like "clumsy," "workaround," or "inelegant."

  • Ghetto
  • Clumsy
  • Workaround
  • Inelegant


This expression is a derogatory reference to Germans during World War II. Instead, use an expression like "poorly designed," "improvised," or "crude."

  • Jerry-rigged
  • Poorly designed
  • Improvised
  • Crude

Low-hanging fruit

This expression has a symbolic connection to the lynching of Black people and might be triggering for some people. In conversation, consider alternatives such as "quick wins" or "easily accomplished work." In technical writing, use a more precise description of the task.

  • Low-hanging fruit
  • Quick wins
  • Easy rewards
  • Easily accomplished work


This term has negative historical connotations for dehumanizing First Nations and Indigenous communities. Use with caution. Don't use "primitive" in a disparaging sense.

  • Primitive
  • Basic
  • Unsophisticated


This term is a Western misspelling of Vodou, an African diasporic religion. Don't use. Instead, use a term like "mysterious," "complicated," or "nondeterministic."

  • Voodoo
  • Mysterious
  • Complicated
  • Nondeterministic

Individuals and groups



This term is an appropriation from Hindu and Buddhist religions that refers to a highly-respected spiritual leader. Depending on the context, use a more precise term like "expert" or "teacher."

  • Guru
  • Expert
  • Teacher


These term is derogatory to the Romani people. Instead, use the appropriate name for the group you're referring to (Romani, Roma, or Traveller).

  • Gypsy
  • Romani
  • Roma
  • Traveller


This term is an appropriation from Japanese culture that refers to a highly-skilled martial artist. Don't use when referring to a person who is an expert in their field. Instead, use "expert."

You can use this term when referring to companies, tools, or software packages that use the term in their names.

  • Ninja
  • Expert
  • Specialist
  • Ace

Peanut gallery

This term refers to the upper balconies in segregated theaters where African-Americans had to sit. Instead, use a literal term like "observers" or "the cheap seats," depending on the context.

  • Peanut gallery
  • Observers
  • Critics
  • Upper balcony
  • The cheap seats


This term refers to an ethnic group in a poor region who perform extremely dangerous work to make a living. Don't use when referring to a person who is a guide or expert in their field. Instead, use a more precise term like "guide."

  • Sherpa
  • Guide
  • Expert

Behaviors and personal qualities



This expression is a misunderstood reference to industrial cooperatives in 1930s China. Instead, use an expression like "too enthusiastic" or "overly zealous."

  • Gung-ho
  • Too enthusiastic
  • Overly zealous

Off the reservation

This expression is a derogatory reference to indigenous and First Nations peoples. Instead, use "out of bounds" or "outside the norm."

  • Off the reservation
  • Out of bounds
  • Outside the norm
  • Gone rogue

On the warpath

This expression originates from negative stereotypes of indigenous and First Nations people perpetuated by early colonial settlers. Instead, use "aggressive" or "eager to fight."

  • On the warpath
  • Aggressive
  • Eager to fight


This term refers to slavery. Instead, use "arrogant" or "conceited."

  • Uppity
  • Arrogant
  • Conceited



Call a spade a spade

This expression has derogatory connotations for Black people. Instead, use "tell it like it is."

  • Call a spade a spade
  • Tell it like it is

Circle the wagons

This expression refers to a defensive technique used by early settlers against possible attack by indigenous peoples. Instead, use an expression like "protect ourselves" or "stay united."

  • Circle the wagons
  • Protect ourselves
  • Stay united
  • Protect ourselves
  • Resist together

Ghettoizing, ghettoization

This term refers to a poor urban area occupied primarily by a minority group or groups. Instead, use more precise terms like "isolating" or "restricting."

  • Ghettoizing
  • Ghettoization
  • Isolating
  • Restricting

Going Dutch

This term is a negative stereotype that portrays the Dutch as cheap. Instead, use "split the bill" or "share the cost."

  • Going Dutch
  • Split the bill
  • Share the cost

Gyp, gip
Gypped, gipped

These terms are derogatory to the Romani people. Instead of figurative uses, use a more precise phrase like "defraud" or "ripped off."

  • Gyp, gip
  • To get gypped
  • Defraud, steal, scam, cheat
  • To get ripped off, to be swindled

Hold down the fort

This expression refers to defending early colonial settlements against indigenous peoples. Instead, use "keep things moving" or "watch over things."

  • Hold down the fort
  • Keep things moving
  • Watch over things

Lower the bar

This expression refers to the negative idea that a company has to relax hiring standards to recruit people from different racial, ethnic, or gender backgrounds. When referring to product quality, use "lower our standards" or "compromise." When referring to hiring, use an expression that refers to accessibility, inclusion, or diversity.

  • Lower the bar
  • Lower our standards (on quality)
  • Compromise
  • Be more inclusive (for hiring)
  • Promote diversity

No can do

This expression originates from imitation of Chinese Pidgin English in the late nineteenth century. Instead, use "not possible," "not feasible," or "I can't do it."

  • No can do
  • Not possible
  • Not feasible
  • I can't do it


This term is associated with discriminatory practices and policies that denied loans to certain neighborhoods based on ethnicity. When referring to text or code, use a more literal term such as "delete," "cancel," "drop," or "edit." When referring to a document, use "edited with changes tracked."

  • Redline
  • Redlined
  • Delete
  • Cancel
  • Drop
  • Edit
  • Edited with changes tracked

Sold down the river

This term refers to slavery. Instead, use "betrayed," or "put in a difficult situation."

  • Sold down the river
  • Betrayed
  • Put in a difficult situation

Other colloquialisms


Long time, no see

This expression originates from mockery of indigenous and First Nations people. Instead, use "It's been a while" or similar.

  • Long time, no see
  • It's been a while

Mumbo jumbo, mumbo-jumbo

This term was historically used to dismiss the spiritual beliefs and rituals of colonized peoples. Instead, use "nonsense" or "gibberish."

  • Mumbo jumbo
  • Nonsense
  • Gibberish

Paddy wagon

This term is associated with anti-Irish discrimination. Instead, use "patrol car" or "police van."

  • Paddy wagon
  • Patrol car
  • Police van

Spirit animal

This term refers to the spiritual traditions of many Indigenous groups. Don't use when referring to a similarity with or love for something. Instead, use a more precise expression, or a fictional term like "patronus."

  • Spirit animal
  • Favourite animal
  • Kindred spirit