Inclusive Language - 5 Tips for Beginners

We all know the power that words hold. Used well, language has the ability to bind people. Using inclusive language is one of the best and easiest ways. It’s not easy to change our deeply embedded habits. Using inclusive language asks us to dig deep and consider the implications of literally everything we say. Some people may say these changes are unnecessary and that whatever you do, someone will always to be offended. However, why not try?

Working towards using inclusive language offers not only the organisation, but every one a chance to grow and become better communicators.

Here are our top 5 tips for beginners to using inclusive language:

  • Don’t use ‘guys or mate’. It is not gender neutral and usually refers to males; try using ‘our people’ or ‘our team’.
  • Replace ‘man’ as a synonym for work – as in ‘man hours’ or ‘man power’. It’s highly gendered. Try replacing the word with ‘work’ or ‘task’.
  • Avoid phrases and idioms as most don’t translate from country to country and end up excluding people. Example: call a spade a spade. What does it mean for someone who doesn’t understand the context?
  • Using words that showcase someone as a victim is another one to change. Examples are afflicted by, victim of, suffers from etc. These suggest someone’s disability more than their ability to do something.
  • If you aren’t sure, ask. Strive to include language that reflects individual choices in how they talk about themselves.

As in every starting point, notice how you communicate for a day or two. It will help you become cognisant of the various slang you use that aren’t inclusive. Don’t fret over every word and phrase. A few changes can take you far. Start now!

Disclaimer: We’re an organisation striving to increase our knowledge about diversity and inclusion every single day. If you are keen to understand more about inclusive language, we recommend An Incomplete Guide to Inclusive Language for Startups and Tech here.

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Looking for further inspiration?

Are diversity and inclusion something you’re keen to action but not sure where to start? Access our resources for hiring for diversity and much more here…