The Power of Inclusive Language – Guide for Your Business [+Tips that Will Help you Adapt]

7min.

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The Power of Inclusive Language – Guide for Your Business [+Tips that Will Help you Adapt]d-tags
25 March 2024
Inclusive language impacts your brand reputation. It's not me who says so - it's the data. As a marketer, you should know how to reach your target group and what to do to keep up with trends. Increase your conversions, build a trusting community and be research-driven.

7min.

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According to McKinsey & Company, 75% of Gen Z consumers claim they will boycott companies that discriminate based on race. Deloitte reports that 83% of millennials actively engage when they believe their organization promotes an inclusive culture.

What is Inclusive Language?

Inclusive language is a form of communication that aims to be accessible and non-exclusive. It strives to eliminate potentially discriminatory or exclusionary language towards marginalized groups. The goal is to ensure that communication is clear, concise, and accessible to everyone. Inclusive language shapes the thoughts and attitudes that are formed through communication.

Types of Exclusion

Exclusion can occur based on various factors, including:

  • Age
  • Social status
  • Economic status
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Appearance

Language can consciously or unconsciously reflect these biases. Implicit biases, or subconscious or hidden biases, can also be reflected in language.

Benefits of Inclusive Language. From Branding to ROI

Inclusive language is not just about showing respect for others; it’s also about making sound business decisions. By adopting inclusive language in your brand strategy, you can reap several tangible benefits.

1. Embrace Diversity, Connect with Consumers

Inclusive language allows your brand to represent and embrace social diversity. This is especially important for younger generations, such as millennials and Gen Z, who are increasingly mindful of inclusivity and representation.

2. Build a Positive Brand Image

Brands that use inclusive language are perceived as more socially conscious, which can lead to a stronger brand image and reputation among consumers.

3. Expand Your Audience Reach

Inclusive language eliminates potential barriers related to discrimination and exclusion, allowing you to connect with a broader range of consumers.

4. Boost Customer Engagement

Customers are more likely to identify with brands that use inclusive language, leading to increased engagement and loyalty towards your products or services.

5. Avoid Negative Reactions

While “avoiding” shouldn’t be the primary focus, it’s important to acknowledge that using non-inclusive language can lead to controversies and negative reactions from consumers, potentially damaging your brand image.

6. Drive Business Growth

A positive brand image, customer loyalty, and a wider audience can all contribute to increased revenue for your business. Inclusive language isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also a smart business strategy.

Inclusivity:

  • Creates a welcoming and respectful workplace
  • Improves communication and collaboration
  • Enhances employee morale and productivity
  • Attracts and retains top talent.

Tips to Help You Adapt

Let’s start with a few easy tips.

Use Simple(r) Language:

Did you know that writing in an easily understandable and digestible way is crucial in maintaining an inclusive language?

I’m pretty sure you have read (with great pleasure, of course) a document from the office, insurance provider, or lawyer at least once in your life. How much did you understand back then, and how much time did you waste trying to decipher it? What do strange, convoluted sentences mean? Why can’t it be written “simpler”?

Well, it can. Just because something is written in a complicated way doesn’t mean it’s smarter than something easily understood. Every content marketer should aspire to use content creation techniques based on simplicity.

So, to sum up:

  • Write in a way that is simple and understandable.
  • Avoid complex sentences and industry jargon.
  • Use plain language that is accessible to a wide audience.

Do Not Assume the Identity of Your Audience

Avoid using gendered terms like “mom” or “dad” when possible; instead, use gender-neutral language like “parent” or “guardian.” Be mindful of the diversity of your audience and avoid making assumptions.

Let’s give you a few examples.

  • This baby face care cream is created for all mothers who care about their children!
  • The groom and the bride will be delighted with the sound system in the hall.
  • Join our exciting new program for young professionals.

As an exercise of sorts, think about who is excluded by words used in the sentences above.

Now, think about what could be done to prevent this from happening.

Often, even a bit of empathy and a broader perspective are enough to make the brand language inclusive, interesting, and colorful.

Of course, you can collect specific data about your target group. This will help you understand which genders you are primarily addressing or determine your customers’ ethnicity. This is a great strategy, allowing you to target your activities better. That’s why we recommend marketing personas and effective market analysis. But don’t assume that everything is as simple as it looks. And remember that accurate targeting =/= necessity of exclusion.

Do Not Ignore Differences:

Sometimes, it seems like the “right” solution is to assume everyone is the same. Being sure that emphasizing differences is inappropriate is quite understandable. After all, most of us grew up believing it is better not to say anything, and if we don’t say anything, there the matter can rest. Right?

Well… Not really.

The fact that we are silent or omit certain issues does not change the fact that they exist; problems of disabled people are facts, lack of accessibility on the Internet is a fact, and discrimination for a variety of reasons is a fact.

Therefore, you, as a marketer (content creator, strategy creator, copywriter, or maybe the person responsible for branding or all brand communication?), should pay attention to all this.

Instead of ignoring problems, accept their existence and offer solutions, whether linguistic or related to how your brand works.

The main point is to ensure that diversity does not become a barrier to efficient communication. And yes, you must sometimes be clever and creative to combine it.

After all, marketing is a creative field, isn’t it?

Remember:

  • Acknowledge and embrace the diversity of your audience.
  • Do not ignore issues like disability, accessibility, or discrimination.
  • Be inclusive and offer solutions that work for everyone.

Verify That You Are Not Using Stereotypes

You can think of language as a spectrum of inclusivity. Some of what we say is consciously non-inclusive phrases that are quite easily avoided. Using gender-neutral language isn’t much of a challenge. There are also words whose offensive meanings we know and understand perfectly well, and even stereotypical sayings, e.g., in the context of gender – “boys don’t cry” or “driving like a woman.”

Sometimes, however, these meanings of words are buried a little deeper so that we can’t see them immediately. Think, for example, of the word “patron,” which comes from the Latin “pater,” meaning father (and think for a moment, why important figures are patrons, not matrons?). Similarly, we talk about “manpower” – this word seems gender-neutral on the surface, but it actually has roots in referring to male workers. While it might not be intended to exclude women, it can reinforce the idea that manual labor is a male domain. What can you use instead? Let’s go with the word “workforce”!

Remember that language reflects our culture in more ways than we think.
When writing content and creating videos or podcasts, check regularly whether you are not falling into the trap of stereotypes. That’s it!

So, to put it shortly:

  • Be aware of the hidden meanings of words and phrases.
  • Avoid using stereotypes in your writing and communication.
  • Use language that is respectful and inclusive of all people.

What about the person-first language?

If you have read anything about inclusive language, you probably know the common patterns and how we should “separate a feature from a person”. Recently, however, we hear more and more about identity-first language, which assumes that this approach is absolutely fine. So, what is the truth? And what is the difference between person-first language and identity-first language?

The voices I mention above are most often the voices of the people who have no problem referring to them directly (especially common among the Deaf and autistic communities), as their identity is part of their lives and should be natural. So, if we can have black hair, blue eyes, and a nationality or gender identity, we can also have a disability.

In a nutshell:

  • Person-first language is a way of formulating sentences about people that puts the person in the center and the disability in the second place. Examples: “I am a person with a hearing disability,” “a person with autism / on the spectrum”.
  • Identity-first language – this way of speaking assumes that illness or disability is part of identity and should not be separated. Examples: “I am Deaf”, “I am autistic”.

Cathy Wassell, chief executive of the Autistic Girls Network Charity in the UK, uses identity-first language. She cites research that shows that autistic people prefer this form of referring to them (e.g., Does Language Matter? Identity-First Versus Person-First Language Use in Autism Research), and adds:

Autism isn’t a handbag; you can’t pick it up or put it down. It’s a part of you, how you experience the world, how you react to things.

Cathy Wassell (source)

Which method of communication should you choose?

When speaking directly to another person, make sure you use their preferred language. How? Well, it’s not that hard! Just ask.

Suppose you are speaking to the general public or do not have the opportunity to ask a question. In that case, it is safer to use person-centered language rather than identity-centered language, as some people may not be comfortable with the latter.

And remember – it’s not about you ;). So even if you prefer a different way of speaking, respecting the preferences of the other person or group of people is paramount.

Inclusive Language. How do you use neutral language, and why?

When writing articles, I often catch myself using phrases that are not inclusive (especially when I write in Polish, and try to avoid using gender everywhere – it’s really difficult).

Nothing is wrong with the fact that certain habits, inculcated for a very long time, remain. What matters is what you do with them. For instance, that’s why I go through my articles repeatedly: to make sure I didn’t let my habits get the better of me.

Why is this important?

Because people who are not male, straight, white, young, rich, or so beautiful they could be on the cover of Vogue exist. And they want to feel seen. They are tired of the fact that everything, even the language we use, excludes them to a greater or lesser extent. And we, as content and language specialists, should be there for them.

Underrepresented groups want to see themselves and their worldview reflected in your brand. Demographic changes make values the most important factor when making purchasing decisions.

Below is an example of words worth using instead of common phrases that—even if not intentionally—carry certain prejudices or assumptions.

Source: https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/marketing-solutions/resources/images/banners/lsms/inclusive-language-for-marketers-a-pocket-guide.pdf

Just learn and develop!

I’m serious. Don’t aim to be perfect. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but if you notice that a certain message has caused dissatisfaction, discomfort, or any negative feelings among your recipients, admit your mistake, draw conclusions, and move on.

We have seen many brand crises caused by excluding language usage, and trust me, you will definitely cope with an image crisis better by admitting you were wrong than by standing your ground and hurting even more people. Empathy isn’t “in fashion”. It’s something that should be standard.

Be mindful of cultural differences and avoid using language that could be offensive or insensitive. Use respectful language that does not discriminate against any group of people.

And remember!

  • Inclusive language is good for your business.
  • Inclusive language is the right thing to do.
  • Inclusive language is the future of communication.

We keep our fingers crossed for your development and the introduction of inclusive language into brand communication – and if you need some copywriting support, we are here to help!

Author
Ola Drewniak SEO Content Team
Author
Ola Drewniak

Content Specialist

An editor by profession. She has been working in marketing for the past 5 years — first in the social media teams of Krakow publishing houses, then in SEO and copywriting, until she finally decided to excel in content marketing and combine her organizational skills with her extraordinary linguistic sense of style. She works on content projects at Delante, conducting content audits, arranging content plans, and creating content for the most demanding clients. Privately, a cat behaviorist, future dog trainer, and a lover of tattoos and RPG games.

Author
Ola Drewniak SEO Content Team
Author
Ola Drewniak

Content Specialist

An editor by profession. She has been working in marketing for the past 5 years — first in the social media teams of Krakow publishing houses, then in SEO and copywriting, until she finally decided to excel in content marketing and combine her organizational skills with her extraordinary linguistic sense of style. She works on content projects at Delante, conducting content audits, arranging content plans, and creating content for the most demanding clients. Privately, a cat behaviorist, future dog trainer, and a lover of tattoos and RPG games.

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