One of the most powerful tools we have as humans is language. It can be used to educate others, tie us and our shared histories together, and perform day-to-day operations. The inverse, on the other hand, has also been confirmed. Language has been used to marginalise and discriminate against others based on cultures, skin tone, gender, orientation, age and more.
And we understand that implementing inclusive language is easier said than done. Creating inclusive content and having workplace interactions free of exclusive terminology necessitates overcoming ingrained behaviours and biases you may not even be aware of. So, let us look at what precisely inclusive language is, why it's important, how we can recognize and challenge stereotypes, and how we can further promote respect and inclusive language in our workplaces.
What Exactly Is Inclusive Language?
Inclusive language intentionally recognises the vast diversity in our world and actively tries to respect differences while promoting equality and opportunity for everyone. It actively demonstrates openness to diversity by eliminating biases, idioms or slang terminology that discriminate against groups of people.
The Key Principles of Inclusive Language
Avoid ideograms, sayings, jargon, etc. — Many expressions don't transfer well from country to country, and others have negative meanings or stereotypes (for example, "whitewash" and "peanut gallery", which both have negative historical connotations).
Put people first — Use terminology that focuses first on the person rather than the descriptor. For example, instead of "disabled person", use "person with disabilities".
Focus on the individual, not traits — Make sure to mention race, gender or ability in appropriate settings, and only if they are facts, not opinions.
Think outside your group — Make sure not to use your group as a reference group, as this conveys a sense of normalcy and superiority.
Gender identification can be complex — Avoiding specific allusions to gender and keeping your language gender-neutral is one of the quickest successes your company can have with inclusive language.
If you don't know, ask — If you're unclear on whether you're using inclusive language or can't figure it out from a conversation, ask! Most people would prefer you strive to be inclusive and fall short but then rectify it than not try at all.
Understand that inclusive language is evolving — All languages change throughout time; therefore, it's only natural that inclusive language changes. Our understanding of each other and of how we want to be communicated evolves with time, and as a result, our wording must change to reflect this.
Examples of Inclusive and Exclusive Language
Just imagine if a meeting was being held and the boss opened with "Let's get this started, guys" — how would this make female colleagues feel? Would they feel less welcomed or even belittled compared to their male co-workers? And how could the situation have been avoided by using more inclusive language, such as replacing "guys" with "everyone" or by simply saying "let's get started" to remove any exclusive language?
How Does Inclusive Language Create a Sense of Belonging and Promote Respect?
Through our language, we may show that we respect, value and support individuals by proactively recognising the differences that make up who we are. As individuals hear and see themselves in communications, this promotes and accelerates a workplace culture that is more inclusive and creates a sense of belonging.
It is impossible to overestimate the influence of inclusive language. Being made to feel like you don't belong can be soul-destroying, affect mental health and wellbeing, and undermine confidence. It can also heighten feelings of being alone, not belonging and not fitting in.
How You Can Recognize and Challenge Stereotypes Through Inclusive Language
7 Tips for Implementing Inclusive Language in Your Business
Add inclusive language statements into brand guidelines — Don't leave inclusivity up to chance by making it a crucial part of your brand's framework.
Use diverse graphics, images and statements — While inclusive language is essential to fostering a more fair and healthy workplace, your pictures, images and designs must also be inclusive.
Be open to feedback — Listening to feedback is essential to having an inclusive and diverse workplace. There may be people in your organisation who notice other aspects of inclusive language that may be improved or can provide feedback on how your implementation is going.
Review everything — You'll need to go over all of your company communications when working on inclusive language. Internal and external communication initiatives, such as your website, email communications, social media posts and even recruiting attempts, are all included.
Use plain language — Certain groups of individuals may comprehend colloquial words and idioms, but those who speak a different language or come from a diverse cultural background may not. If we wish to be more inclusive, we must utilise plain language in communication that all readers easily understand.
Become an ally — Being an ally to diverse or marginalised groups is another method to improve your inclusive language use. You can start to organically identify other areas of branded language that can be made more inclusive by learning more about diverse groups of people and respecting their identities and orientations.
Keep learning and teaching — Act by educating yourself, your co-workers and others in your circle of trust on discriminatory phrases, their history and inclusive terminology. This process may include ongoing communication, resource sharing and lessons learned sessions to assist us in recognising our personal biases.
Through the use of inclusive language, we can do better within our communities and businesses. All persons should be treated with respect, dignity and impartiality, and the best way to do that is through inclusive language. Homes, businesses and workplaces should all be inclusive places that allow everyone to speak on equal footing.
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is critical to recruiting and keeping the most extraordinary personnel. The first step in ensuring that your workplace is inclusive is to learn more about inclusive language and how to implement it through Inspired Human’s online courses, e.g., inclusive language course. When people come to work daily, you may establish an environment where they feel welcomed, respected and valued.