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There are a handful of words and phrases that can crush your job descriptions.

Use just one of these phrases and you could lose 50%+ of your candidates. These words are considered “exclusionary” by some and just plain offensive by others.

Exclusionary words in job descriptions are so rampant, that Ongig’s Text Analyzer now flags them for our clients (with recommendations for inclusive synonyms to replace them with).

Below are a couple of examples of exclusionary words we’ve found in job descriptions. I grayed out the names of the employers cuz we don’t like to throw co.s under the bus.



Check out the phrases highlighted above: There are 2 problems with this:

  1. It assumes that veterans are only men
  2. It ignores same-sex relationships that veterans might be in


They’d be better off writing something like:

“veterans and/or their spouses” or “veterans and their partners”.

Let’s look at another example of a job description with language offensive to some.

One topic to beware of is racially insensitive words and phrases.

Check out the below job description’s use of the phrase “master / slave”. “Master/Slave” is a term used in technology to describe the control of one device over another.



Many will consider “master/slave” racially insensitive because it evokes the practice of slavery.  In 2004, the phrase “master/slave” was named the most politically incorrect term by Global Language Monitor. Yet, master/slave continues to be used in many database-related job descriptions


Consider different language, for instance, tech leaders such as IBM, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and others have replaced the use of “master/slave” with “primary/replica”

There are entire movements going on to rid the world of words that many find offensive.  R-word.org, for example, is a community built to end the use of the word “retard” and its variants. It has 775,533 pledges at last count.

A synonym for retarded, for example, is “a person with a developmental disability”.

Good Resources for Lists of Exclusionary and Offensive Words

Here are a couple of good lists of potentially-offensive/exclusionary words:

Here’s a list of potentially offensive/exclusionary words with a more inclusive synonym:

Exclusionary Word Inclusive Synonym
afflicted person with a disability
brother sibling
businessman businessperson
crippled person with a disability
dad parent
females women
forefathers ancestors
founding fathers ancestors, founders
freshman first-year student
gals folks, people
girl woman
grandfather clause legacy
guys folks, people, teammates
handicapped people with disabilities
husbands spouses, partners
invalid person with a disability
ladies folks, people
layman layperson
man person, individual
work hours, workers, workforce, personnel
man-made artificial, synthetic
mankind people, human beings, humanity
manpower workers, workforce, personnel
middleman intermediary, go-between
mom parent
a person with developmental disability
sister sibling
spokesman spokesperson
spokeswoman spokesperson
deceased spouses, deceased partners
deceased spouses, deceased partners
wives spouses, partners
workmanship work


Why I wrote this?

My team and I at Ongig focus on creating the world’s best-looking and most effective job descriptions. One feature of our Text Analyzer software is that it identifies offensive/exclusionary words in your job descriptions…and fixes them.

Rob Kelly

Co-Founder and CEO at Ongig
I am a 3-time CEO, author and proud father of my preemie baby Maverick! We created Ongig to transform your job descriptions to boost quality candidates and diversity. Ongig supercharges your job pages through video, images, chat, social sharing, microsite creation and much more. Jobs can be more easily found through Artificial Intelligence-based job search and all pages are Mobile and SEO- optimized. Ongig also analyzes the text of your JDs and our pro copywriting team will rewrite your job descriptions. Early clients of Ongig include Salesforce, Yelp, GoDaddy, Verizon, Intel & Autodesk. Request a demo if you'd like to chat about partnering!

by in Writing Job Descriptions