Over the years, human rights have expanded thanks to those on the forefront of progressive movements. These movements haven’t always been perfect though, at times calling for equal rights for some while leaving behind others deemed unworthy: largely racialized, disabled, 2SLGBTQ+, Indigenous, and low income folks.
While we’ve come a long way from the 20th century days of trickle down human rights, the practice of using language (intentionally or not) to exclude people coming from diverse backgrounds is one that continues today.
Given the current socio-political climate, it’s no shocker that diversity, equity, and inclusion practices are top of mind for most organizations. Actively integrating inclusive language can help you communicate in a mindful way and ensure that everyone feels valued, respected, and seen.
Ready to change the conversation? Here are some tips to make sure that you’re being inclusive in communicating to your audiences — externally and internally.
Make the shift to non-gendered language
Don’t make assumptions about your audience’s gender identity, sexual orientation, or other ways they may identify. Some easy ways to do this is to switch to language that is not specific to any gender.
Example: Use ‘partner’ or ‘spouse’ instead of ‘husband’ or ‘wife.’
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Avoid stereotypes & cultural biases
When communicating, many of us tend to write for people who are similar to us. Make sure to think of how your words will be interpreted by people who are different from you. Many commonly-used phrases have a complicated historical context so make sure to do your research before using them in your communications.
Example: Use ‘underrepresented’ instead of ‘minorities.’
Skip ableist words
Ableist language is derogatory and hurtful and suggests that having a disability is a ‘bad’ thing. Make sure that you don’t make someone’s disability a limiting factor.
Example: Use ‘ignorant’ instead of ‘turning a blind eye.’
Use people-first language
People-first language puts the person before their descriptor — this can be their disability, socio-economic status, or any other identifying characteristic.
Example: Use ‘person experiencing homelessness’ instead of ‘homeless person.’
Use plain language and avoid jargon
Don’t make assumptions of someone’s educational background or language proficiency. Avoid using technical jargons and acronyms that not everyone understands. Be mindful of the fact that people who are non-native English speakers may find it difficult to understand some phrases used commonly in North American workplaces and institutions.
Example: Use ‘Please find attached’ instead of ‘PFA.’
Learn from your mistakes
Remember that making mistakes is part of the process of being more inclusive. Instead of being defensive, use mistakes as an opportunity to listen, apologize, and correct yourself.
Thinking of building a communications strategy or brand that reaches a diverse audience effectively? Learn how we can help you break through the noise and make an impact.
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published October 18, 2023