Inclusive Forms | Marketing Practices

Forms are a pervasive but overlooked element of the student, staff and faculty experience at Pacific University. Questions can inherently exclude or ignore entire populations, and an indiscreet form can ask for unnecessary information that pries into sensitive areas.

DOs & DON’Ts | if nothing else, follow these guidelines

  • DO allow for “Other,” “Prefer not to say,” and custom choices.
  • DO be transparent about which information is necessary or optional.
  • DO make your forms private and safe.

Guidelines for Inclusive Forms

There are several reasons inclusive forms are important. Practically, a non-inclusive form can gather false data or deter individuals from completing the form at all. A non-inclusive form can also make an individual feel excluded by the community. For example, a form for intramural sports with only male and female options may effectively ban a gender non-conforming person from participation. 

When creating an inclusive form, there are four guidelines to follow wherever possible.

1. Reframe the question from one of classification (“What are you?”) to one of identification (“How do you think of yourself?”).
For example, do not ask “What is your ethnicity?” where you can ask “With which ethnic group(s) do you most identify?”

2. Do not limit options. Allow for multiple choices and custom answers.
For example, someone might want to identify as both “Asian” and “African-American” for your question on race.

3. Make questions optional.
Allow for someone to choose “I prefer not to answer.” For example, if they do not want to reveal their sexual orientation.

4. If you do not need the information, then do not ask for it.

What Is Necessary?

Certain questions can feel intrusive or demoralizing. It is important to ask yourself, “Why do I need this information?” There are good reasons to ask for sex on a medical intake form but none to ask for gender on a mileage reimbursement form.

If you have a reason to ask for information, then explicitly state it. Examples follow.

  • “We require race and ethnicity to meet federal reporting guidelines.”
  • “We include your pronouns on your printed name tag.”
  • “We will communicate with your insurance provider. The sex listed here must match their records.”


Generally, if information is not considered directory information, then it is private. This includes race, ethnicity, sex, gender and disability status. Therefore, take precautions that forms are transmitted securely and stored safely.

CONNECTION | For more information on Pacific University’s privacy and directory information policies, see the Registrar’s Privacy & Confidentiality webpage at

Because form information can be private, do not just state why you require the information but also note who will see it and how it will be used. Examples follow.

  • “Your race and ethnicity will only be used internally for the purposes of monitoring diversity.”
  • “Your gender will be used to determine eligibility for sports participation.”
  • “Your income will be used to determine eligibility for the scholarship. If eligible, your information will be shared with the judging committee.”

Crafting Inclusive Questions

Suppose you are hosting an event on campus that includes overnight accommodation in a residence hall, with two attendees per room. In this case, you have a compelling reason for asking for gender on the event registration form. How should you do it? The below possibilities get progressively better.

  1. “Male or Female?”
    The worst question. It forces people into narrow categories and excludes those who do not fit.
  2. “Would you prefer accommodations in a women’s or men’s residence hall?”
    This question is better because it asks for preference versus classification, and it clarifies how the information will be used.
  3. “I would prefer accommodations in a women’s or men’s residence hall. Or, I require special accommodations.”
    This framing is better because it allows individuals to express needs that would have been ignored or otherwise not anticipated. For example, if the attendee is transgender and uncomfortable sharing a room, or if the attendee is a wheelchair user and requires extra space.
  4. “I would prefer accommodations in a women’s or men’s residence hall. Or, I require special accommodations.” *We use this information to pair roommates.
    This question is best because it explicitly explains why the organizer needs the information.

NOTE | The questions above are longer to help explain the concepts. However, you do not need wordier forms to be inclusive. The above could be reduced to the following: Men's Residence Hall | Women's Residence Hall | Special Accommodations