Effective Terminology in IETF Documents

The mission of the IETF as specified in BCP 95 is to produce high quality, relevant technical documents that influence the way people design, use, and manage the Internet. As RFC 7322 explains, "The ultimate goal of the RFC publication process is to produce documents that are readable, clear, consistent, and reasonably uniform." RFCs and Internet-drafts are most effective when they use terminology that is clear, precise, and widely accessible to readers from varying backgrounds and cultures.

In the years leading up to the chartering of this working group, there has been discussion in the IETF, in other standards organizations, and in the technology industry about the use of certain terms (such as “master/slave” and “blacklist/whitelist”) in technical documentation and whether those and other terms have effects on inclusivity. While opinions vary among IETF participants about this topic, there is general agreement that the IETF community would benefit from informational recommendations about using effective and inclusive terminology in IETF documents.

The TERM working group is therefore chartered to produce an Informational RFC containing recommendations on terminology to use in technical work produced by the IETF. The RFC will express general principles for judging when language is inclusive or exclusive. It will also point out potentially problematic terms and potential alternatives, or link to an updateable resource containing such information.

The TERM working group is a focused group aiming to produce a single deliverable. It is designed to complement other efforts at fostering inclusivity in the IETF.

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