Terminology, Power, and Inclusive Language in Internet-Drafts and RFCs

Document Type Active Internet-Draft (individual)
Authors Mallory Knodel  , Niels ten Oever 
Last updated 2020-08-25
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Network Working Group                                          M. Knodel
Internet-Draft                         Center for Democracy & Technology
Intended status: Best Current Practice                      N. ten Oever
Expires: February 25, 2021                          Texas A&M University
                                                         August 24, 2020

 Terminology, Power, and Inclusive Language in Internet-Drafts and RFCs


   This document argues for more inclusive language conventions
   sometimes used by RFC authors and the RFC Production Centre in
   Internet-Drafts that are work in progress, and in new RFCs that may
   be published in any of the RFC series, in order to foster greater
   knowledge transfer and improve diversity of participation in the

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at https://datatracker.ietf.org/drafts/current/.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on February 25, 2021.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2020 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
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   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
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   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of

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   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

1.  Introduction

   According to [RFC7322], "The ultimate goal of the RFC publication
   process is to produce documents that are readable, clear, consistent,
   and reasonably uniform," and one function of the RFC Editor is to
   "[c]orrect larger content/clarity issues; flag any unclear passages
   for author review."  Documents that are published as RFCs are first
   worked on as Internet-Drafts.

   Given the importance of communication between people developing RFCs,
   Internet-Drafts (I-D's), and related documents, it is worth
   considering the effects of terminology that has been identified as
   exclusionary.  This document argues that certain obviously
   exclusionary terms should be avoided and replaced with alternatives.
   We propose nothing more than additional care in the choice of
   language just as care is taken in defining standards and protocols

   This document presents arguments for why exclusionary terms should be
   avoided in Internet-Drafts and RFCs and as an exercise describes the
   problems introduced by some specific terms and why their proposed
   alternatives improve technical documentation.  The example terms
   discussed in this document include "master-slave" and "whitelist-
   blacklist".  There is a final section on additional considerations
   and general action points to address future RFCs and I-D's.  Lastly,
   a summary of recommendations is presented.

2.  Terminology

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119][RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

3.  Terminology and Power in Internet-Drafts and RFCs

   According to the work of scholar Heather Brodie Graves from 1993,
   "one goal of the application of rhetorical theory in the technical
   communication classroom is to assess the appropriateness of
   particular terms and to evaluate whether these terms will facilitate
   or hinder the readers' understanding of the technical material"
   [BrodieGravesGraves].  This implies that in order to effectively
   communicate the content of I-Ds and RFCs to all readers, it is
   important for Authors to consider the kinds of terms or language

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   conventions that may inadvertently get in the way of effective
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