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Revised Style Guides Advance Age-Inclusive Language

By CEO James Appleby, BSPharm, MPH
January 26, 2022

Minimizing the ever-present risk of inadvertently activating negative stereotypes about older people begins with us and is determined by how intentional we are in our word choice. As leading scholars in the field, GSA members are constantly publishing research that becomes immortalized in publications. Fortunately, an expanding number of journal style guides now feature entries on bias-free language to support authors during manuscript preparation.

Since its earliest days, the Reframing Aging Initiative, now housed at GSA, has been advocating for the adoption of revisions to guides used by many publications. Over the past few years, The American Medical Association (AMA) Manual of Style, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), and Associated Press (AP) Stylebook have each adopted bias-free language thanks to reframing efforts. A big shout out to the American Geriatrics Society for pioneering this work!

Using guidance from the Reframing Aging Initiative, and recommendations from the NIH Workshop on Inclusion, these style guides provide specific directives on language to avoid in your writing. GSA’s journals use the AMA and APA styles, and the Society recently added Reframing Aging journal manuscript guidelines to the GSA website for the benefit of prospective authors.

And the work continues, with the Reframing Aging Initiative recently making a connection to the producers of the Modern Language Association of America MLA Handbook, the American Sociological Association Style Manual, and the American Political Science Association Style Manual.

These systemic changes are remarkable and represent a major step forward in both the academic and consumer press. I ask you to help us continue the momentum by revisiting the appropriate style guides for the journals you are publishing in to ensure you are up to date with the latest guidance on bias-free language in the aging field. (And the resources on the Reframing Aging Initiative website will shed light on the research that informed the adopted changes.) The words you write now will live (digitally) forever. These revised style guides will help you shine for generations to come.

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