A memo on usage from Assistant Managing Editor Henry Fuhrmann to Times copy editors:
We have updated our rule on the use of Latino to reflect more accurately what the editors of the 1995 Times stylebook intended: that the term in virtually all cases is the appropriate choice over Hispanic, in keeping with the practices and sensibilities of residents of our region.
We offer this combined new listing in place of two separate and occasionally confusing former entries:
Latino, Hispanic: Latino is the umbrella term for people in the United States of Latin American descent. It refers to Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and others from the Spanish-speaking lands or cultures of Latin America. A Latino woman is a Latina. It is preferable to say that an individual is Mexican American, of Salvadoran descent and so forth, instead of using the umbrella term.
Keep in mind that Latino is an ethnic group, not a race category. Latinos may be of any race: white, black, Native American, Asian, mestizo, etc. Some speak Spanish; some don’t. Some are U.S. born; others are immigrants.
Note: Hispanic is acceptable in quotes or in proper names. The U.S. Census Bureau uses terms such as “Hispanic or Latino” and “non-Hispanic or Latino” in its survey questions on ethnicity and race. Stories and graphics based on census information are allowed to use that language when it is essential to explain methodology, but we should otherwise use Latino to describe the people in question.
In describing the old entries as “occasionally confusing,” we mean especially every 10 years upon the release of fresh census data. It was easy to see why many of us interpreted the old rules as not only an invitation to use Hispanic but, in census stories, a requirement to do so. The old entry on Hispanic said, in part, “Use Hispanic only in quotes, in proper names or reports based on census data.”
So, to be clear: Latino should be used in nearly all contexts; the exceptions, as described in the revised entry, must truly be exceptional. The online stylebook has been updated accordingly.
[We thank our good friend Steve Padilla of the National assigning desk for his help in crafting the revised rule, as well as our retired colleague Frank Sotomayor, a member of the 1995 style committee who spotted an erroneous use of Hispanic a few months ago in a story citing 2010 census figures.]
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