Here at Acrolinx, we’re on a mission to help global companies create content that uses respectful, inclusive, and non-discriminatory language, that’s free from bias.
One of our amazing customers — Salesforce — has been working over the past few months to identify and replace certain technical terms across their products to make their technology (and documentation) more inclusive. Like many tech companies, Salesforce is prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. And one of the best places to start is to set inclusivity standards for vocabulary, terminology, and word choice.
In the spirit of transparency, a recent Salesforce blog post shared an update about some of their key learnings so far, as part of their larger ethics and equality initiative. They also discussed how technologies like Acrolinx are helping them create more inclusive technical documentation by helping them identify and change non-inclusive language.
Salesforce and Technical Documentation
Salesforce has a clear vision of what language it wants its content and technical documentation to use:
“Language matters. The technical language companies choose to use in codebases and technical content have the power to drive inclusion or reinforce harmful biases. Given the power of language, we believe companies have a responsibility to ensure the language they use is respectful, inclusive, and free of bias, and to consider how to operationalize this in their products.”
Salesforce wants to power positive change in their products through the intentional use of more inclusive technical language and terminology in their documentation. In their post, Salesforce Updates Technical Language in Ongoing Effort to Address Implicit Bias, they outline some examples of exclusionary terms in technical language and how to address them — such as using blocklist and allowlist instead of blacklist and whitelist. This is a great resource for other tech companies also looking to remove bias from their technical documentation and source code.
|Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about how ingrained technology is with our ability to make decisions. But it’s present in almost every facet of our lives. It’s time to become more aware of how our thinking shapes the history that we record, and determines the data we select — to create the very technology that’s already shaping our future. Download our Can Technology Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? eBook to learn how to lower the risks of algorithmic bias and develop fairer technology, and how technology can support DEI initiatives.
Technology and Inclusive Technical Documentation
To meet their inclusive goals for documentation, Salesforce harnesses the power of technology to help make their technical writing more inclusive. Salesforce uses the Acrolinx AI-powered software platform to help create inclusive content at scale, by guiding technical writers to make informed language choices as they build content.
“We’re leveraging Acrolinx to help scale internal awareness and language updates in our technical content. The tool checks technical content against our list of noninclusive terms, notifies users when a noninclusive term is used, then suggests an inclusive alternative. Ultimately, the tool allows us to easily fix existing content and keeps our writers from reproducing deprecated, harmful language on an ongoing basis.”
Salesforce recognizes the role technology can play in helping make the world a more inclusive place, so they likewise wanted to use technology to make their products more inclusive. Check out what else they had to say here: Salesforce Updates Technical Language in Ongoing Effort to Address Implicit Bias.
Here at Acrolinx, we also explored the history and role technology can play in inclusive content strategies in our blog When Inclusive Language and Technology Meet. A quick internet search uncovers plenty of real-world examples where unfair machine learning algorithms have led to exclusion and downright poor choices. So it’s vital that tech companies are actively working towards greater diversity, equity, and inclusion for both the technologies they develop and the people that develop them. Because technology can be an essential part of creating a better society. To tell you the truth, technology must play a role. Why? Because the average person spends 3 hours and 15 minutes a day looking at a screen. And many of us are much closer to 4, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Journey Doesn’t End Here
As with all organizations, creating inclusive products is an ongoing process. But it’s great to see companies, like Salesforce, being transparent and open about their ongoing effort to address implicit bias in technical documentation and source code. And we hope that Salesforce’s progress will inspire other companies to consider how their own products, services, and workplace can use language to make their content more inclusive of all readers.
Another Acrolinx customer, Microsoft, has developed a style guide for the creation of inclusive technical documentation. Its guidance ranges from how to avoid ableist language and unnecessary gendered language, to instructions about how to write about new features and include diverse groups in examples. Things like using gender-neutral pronouns and how to avoid being too culturally specific so that documentation is accessible to a global audience. The aim of this guidance is to encourage developers to write documentation with inclusivity and diversity in mind.
It’s also worth remembering that inclusive communication is a vital component of all forms of content, not just technical documentation — from website copy and support articles, to job descriptions and marketing materials. Whether you’re looking to establish a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative at your company, create a more inclusive environment in the workplace, or speak to a broader target audience, inclusive language aligns the impact of your words with your intentions.
How Acrolinx Can Help Your Enterprise
Words matter. Many companies in the tech industry are reviewing technical documentation and updating style guides to remove language that’s exclusionary. Because we’re all worthy of feeling included and valued. And that’s why inclusive language is now a core part of business communication.
The Acrolinx software platform has preset guidelines that meet lots of content needs. And when it comes to Inclusive Language, we recommend that you use all four of our guideline categories: respectful language, gender-neutral language, people-first language, and writing conventions. If you want to learn more about the importance of inclusive communication, make sure to download our Inclusive Language guide.
One of the main aspects of inclusive language is learning why some words and phrases can be exclusionary. That’s why we felt it’s important for the Acrolinx software platform to provide feedback to content creators about the history and connotations of words, guiding and educating writers to create inclusive and accessible content. In the process, your content creators learn why some language choices can exclude certain communities, whether that’s people who have a different gender identity, racial background, sexual orientation, or are a part of other underrepresented groups.
We’re on a mission to help global companies eradicate exclusionary language from their content. Want to learn more about how Acrolinx can help your organization build more inclusive content? Let’s talk.