Stop saying "millennial," says the Wall Street Journal

The term "millennial" is so heavy with negative connotations that news outlets like the Wall Street Journal are considering dropping the word from their coverage altogether, Bryan Lufkin reports for BBC.

The term "millennial" is often used to conjure up a self-involved, thin-skinned snowflake, Lufkin writes. The use of a generational label that has evolved into "snide shorthand" threatens to alienate many of our own students and coworkers, the Journal noted in a recent article.

Some organizations avoid the potentially polarizing name by using the term "students and young professionals" to zero in on a specific group, says Emily Miethner, the chief executive of FindSpark.

But does that mean it's time to retire a label that negatively generalizes an entire generation? Maybe not.

Generational labels help to provide context for our conversations, says Jason Dorsey, the Center of Generational Kinetics' lead researcher of millennials. Labels like "baby boomer" and "millennial" signal specific events that define the worldview of that cohort, he says.

Also see: 5 facts you may not know about millennials

The problem is not the fact that a label exists, but rather, how we use it, Dorsey argues. The more we use the term "millennial" to gesture at negative stereotypes, the more the name becomes a negative term, he says. Replacing the label probably won't shake the stereotypes we have about the generation, but changing the way we portray millennials will, he adds.

Millennial stereotypes fail to capture the breadth of people born between 1980 and 2000, Lufkin writes. In reality, most millennials are hardworking, curious, and poised to change the nature of leadership.

The negativity that surrounds millennials may just come with territory of being the current youth group, Lufkin notes. Young people are "always subjected to finger-wagging by elders," he writes.

Editor's note: At the EAB Daily Briefing, we fall on the side of "use with caution." While we'll continue referring to millennials, we plan to take even more care that we're using the term—and all generational labels—in a thoughtful and sensitive way (Lufkin, BBC, 12/7; Wall Street Journal, 12/7).

Related: 3 ways to retain millennials in higher ed administration


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