The British Council has issued a “non-discriminatory” guide to staffers that frowns on the use of “problematic” terms such as “Brits” or “native English speakers” so as to “reflect the diversity of [its] audience.”
The taxpayer-funded organization, which is tasked with improving the UK’s global standing, has apparently warned employees not to use “careless, uninformed or ill-considered” language that can “categorise, marginalise, exclude or stereotype.”
The document, which was reviewed by the Daily Mail, cautions against using the word ‘Brits’ to refer to people from the UK, since the term “generally does not include people from Northern Ireland.” It also discourages describing a country as “developing,” suggesting that staff use “lower-income country, middle-income country or fragile and conflict-affected state” instead.
In addition, traditionally used figures of speech such as “British English” and “Queen’s English” have been branded “problematic” because using them supposedly “implies that these varieties of English are more correct or of greater importance than others.”
Similarly, it recommends that the phrase “native English speaker” be avoided as it is “often understood to relate to countries like the UK, the USA and Australia, and to discriminate against others who are often called non-native speakers.”
Other standard communications practices to watch out for apparently include using “guys” when addressing or referring to a group of people, as the term is “usually associated with men and can be perceived as excluding women.” Instead, the document suggests alternatives such as “folks,” “team,” “friends,” and “everyone.”
Even the term “politically correct” is considered off-limits, as its usage “downplays and trivialises the hurt and offence caused” in certain circumstances. Meanwhile, using popular phrases with mental-health connotations – describing something as “insane” or someone as “[having] a fit”, for instance – has also been discouraged.
Explaining that the guide was “advisory” rather than “prescriptive,” an unnamed British Council spokesperson told the Daily Mail the organization’s growing global reach meant it was “important the language we use reflects the diversity of our audience” and is “as inclusive as possible.”
However, novelist Julian Fellowes told the paper the guidance was doing the “exact opposite” of “encouraging people not to take offence when no offence is intended.”
The British Council will reportedly receive £189 million in funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office this year.