Refer to age only if it is necessary. Use respectful language and consistent style if age is relevant.
If age is relevant, follow style conventions
Question whether age is relevant. Avoid referring to a person’s age or an age group if it’s not.
If you need to mention age, follow style conventions:
- When the reference to age comes before a noun, punctuate it with hyphens.
- Unless the age reference begins a sentence, use numerals.
39-year-old man faces court today on several charges.
You can withdraw your super once you’re
65, even if you’re still working.
Fourteen-year-old Jasmine Greenwood is the youngest Australian on the Paralympic Games squad.
Use respectful terms when you write about age
Avoid characterising age references when it’s not strictly relevant.
Standalone words in everyday use, like ‘old’ and ‘young’, can carry bias or unintended subtext. Words that carry stereotypes, for example ‘elderly’, are not acceptable.
When an age or age range is relevant to a fact, you can use the term ‘people’ with the age reference.
Survey data showed
people aged 15 to 17 years were the highest proportion of internet users.
Use respectful and inclusive language that talks to the person, not their difference. It’s the law.
Commonwealth laws include:
The term ‘older people’ is acceptable. Don’t use the term ‘old people’. It is disrespectful.
retired people or retirees
senior Australians or seniors
Choose the term that best fits the context.
older Australians are using smartphones to do their business.
The most neutral term is ‘young people’. ‘Youth’ is a gender-neutral term and is also acceptable.
Be careful using the plural ‘youths’. This is often used to refer to male youths only and may carry other connotations.
junior or juniors
Depending on the context, you can use the words ‘adolescents’, ‘children’ and ‘babies’. ‘Kids’ can be suitable, depending on the content’s voice and tone.
The eSafety Commissioner resources for
young people are tailored to different reading ages.
Children in Defence families can need support through a move.
Refer to level of study instead of age
Refer to students by the level of study they are doing, not by their age, unless the age is relevant.
Tertiary students can be many ages. Refer to them simply as ‘students’ or, in the case of PhD students, as ‘PhD candidates’.
Avoid using ‘mature-age student’ unless it is relevant to what you are writing.
The digital edition includes a section on age diversity. It has more examples of appropriate terms to refer to age than either the sixth edition or the Content Guide.
Like the sixth edition, the digital edition recommends using ‘youth’ as a neutral term.
The Content Guide recommended against using the term ‘youth’.
About this page
Australian Human Rights Commission (n.d.) The power of oldness, AHRC, accessed 22 May 2020.
This page was updated Sunday 20 September 2020.