"Latino," "Latina," and "Latinx" are all terms used to refer to people of Latin American descent. But what are the differences here? Why is "Latinx" controversial? And when should you use these terms in your writing?\n\nThis post will explain the basics of these terms.\nWhat Do Latino, Latina and Latinx Mean?\nSpanish is a gendered language. This means that all nouns in the language are assigned a gender, which determines how they are spelled: typically, male nouns end in the letter "o," while female nouns end in "a."\n\nThe difference between "Latino" and "Latina," then, is a matter of gender:\n\n \tMen of Central or South American descent are "Latinos."\n \tWomen of Central or South American descent are "Latinas."\n\nMixed groups have traditionally taken the male form of the word.\nHispanic and Latinx as Gender-Neutral Terms\nIn the past, those seeking a gender-neutral term for people from a Latin American background had to rely on "Hispanic." However, this word excludes Latin American people who aren't from Spanish-speaking countries, such as Brazil or Guyana. Some also consider it old-fashioned or problematic.\n\nSince around 2014, though, the word "Latinx" has emerged as a gender-neutral alternative to the words "Latino" and "Latina." For those who prefer to use gender-neutral language, the "x" ending provides a useful way of describing:\n\n \tMixed-gender groups and non-specific individuals.\n \tPeople with a Latin American background who may be non-binary (so do not wish to identify solely as male or female).\n\n"Latinx" is now fairly widespread, especially among English and dual Spanish\u2013English speakers. However, some people have rejected the term.\nWhat Is the Problem with "Latinx"?\nThere are two key reasons that some people have rejected "Latinx" as a term.\n\nFor some, it misunderstands the role of gender in Spanish, where it is a way of classifying nouns rather than saying something is inherently male or female. And without the usual male and female word endings, it is hard to know how to spell any connected adjectives so that they agree grammatically.\n\nAnother objection is that the word "Latinx" is unpronounceable to many Spanish speakers and impossible to understand if they are not fluent in English. This has led to some seeing it as something English speakers are imposing on Latin Americans.\n\nOther gender-neutral alternatives to "Latino" and "Latina" have emerged. One that sidesteps the pronunciation problem is "Latine," with the "-e" ending simple to say in Spanish as well as English. This word is not yet as widely known, though.\nWhich Term Should I Use?\nThe best term to use for a person or group of people of Latin American heritage will depend on your situation and preferences. However, we have a few tips:\n\n \tLatino and Latina are fine if you are referring to specific people of those genders. If you are a traditionalist, you may also use "Latino" for mixed groups.\n \tLatinx is a gender-neutral alternative to "Latino" or "Latina." It is useful when you want to refer to someone who is non-binary, whose gender hasn\u2019t been specified, or a mixed gender group. However, it may be hard for Spanish speakers to pronounce, so it is best reserved for those who speak English.\n \tLatine is another gender-neutral alternative to "Latino" and "Latina" and avoids the pronunciation problems association with "Latinx." This term is not yet widespread, though, so some readers may not know what you mean.\n\nIn addition, if you are writing about an individual, do your best to respect their identity. If someone refers to themselves as "Latina," for example, use this rather than imposing a gender-neutral term on them. And if someone describes themselves as "Latinx," it is common courtesy to follow their example.\n\nFinally, if you need more help, our editors can offer tailored advice on vocabulary. Why not give our free proofreading trial a go today?