Did you know that organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative and agile? And eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes?

Because diverse and inclusive environments create happy, engaged, and motivated employees. So if you haven’t started already, it’s time to make inclusive language a priority in your workplace.

But what does inclusion really mean? 

Well, it’s the practice of making a workplace where everyone feels welcome, supported, and heard. It’s providing everyone with equal access to opportunities and resources. As opposed to diversity, which is when an organization’s workforce is reflective of the society in which it exists and operates. So, a diverse team includes people with different genders, ethnicities, ages, abilities, and so on. 

If you’re striving for a diverse workforce that’s supported by an inclusive workplace, you have to start with embracing inclusive language principles. And bringing inclusivity into your workplace can be as simple as not assuming to know someone’s preferred pronoun. Or using people-first language instead of language that defines someone by a personal characteristic or disability. 

But before we discuss the role of inclusive language in the workplace we want to cover the basics. Like what it actually is, the aspects of language it includes, and examples of how to get it right. 

Inclusive language definition

Inclusive language demonstrates awareness of the vast diversity of people in the world. Inclusive expressions don’t presume to know someone’s gender or imply biased or prejudiced ideas. Whether that’s in relation to ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, or any other personal characteristic. Using inclusive language offers respect and belonging to all people and challenges implicit biases — so it’s about more than just avoiding offensive language.

And the different aspects of inclusive language are:

  • Gender-neutral language 
  • Person-first language
  • Proper acknowledgment of people and cultures
  • Respectful language
  • Accessible language 
  • History-conscious language
  • Intentional language (that avoids unnecessary descriptions)
  • Non-stereotypical language
  • Diverse and accurate representation

More than ever, the future is focused on holding ourselves accountable for the way history has rejected, oppressed, and excluded certain members of society. As well as combatting lingering implicit biases. And that starts with the language we use. So, when it comes to creating any type of content, inclusivity is a vital component. 

Here are some examples of non-inclusive words and phrases and inclusive alternatives:

Aspect of inclusive languageUnpreferred word/phraseIt’s better to sayWhy?
Gender-neutral languageLatino/LatinaLatinxThis can reinforce gender stereotypes that gender is binary and exclude non-binary people.
Person-first languageHomeless personA person experiencing homelessness, a person without a homeYou should always put the person before the disability, disorder, or diagnosis, as it doesn’t make up their identity.
Proper acknowledgment of people and culturesindigenous peoplesIndigenous PeoplesYou need to capitalize the names of cultures, nationalities, and religions.
Respectful languageSexual preferenceSexual orientationThis term has a contested implication that someone’s sexuality is their choice.
Accessible languageBehind the eight ballAt a disadvantageThis phrase comes from pool/billiards, which not everyone may be familiar with
History-conscious languageRedlinePriority lineThis term refers to the systematic denial of services to people living in certain areas based on their race or ethnicity.
Intentional languageA female scientistA scientistThink about what descriptions are necessary, and in this case mentioning someone’s gender isn’t relevant. 
Non-stereotypical languageMan upBe braveThis term perpetuates stereotypes that men need to appear strong at all times and implies women can’t be.
Diverse and accurate representationManmadeArtificial, manufacturedThis phrase ignores the role women and non-binary people play in shaping our history and innovating our future.

If you want to learn more about the different aspects of inclusive language (as well as more examples of how they’re used in content) make sure to check out the Acrolinx Inclusive Language Guide. We’ll talk about the importance of inclusive language in business and show you how to write more inclusive enterprise content. You’ll learn more about the different aspects of inclusion, the role of design in inclusive content, and the capabilities of diversity and inclusion technology.

But how does this translate to the workplace?

The workplace brings together many people from different walks of life. People of different genders, ethnicities, nationalities, and abilities. And effective communication that prioritizes inclusion celebrates, embraces, and supports the identities of these diverse groups. Not only does this make people feel welcome and respected, it also creates a work environment where people can flourish.

Here are some tips for how to bring inclusion into the workplace:

  • Practice reflective listening and acknowledge people’s subjective experience
  • Use the name a person asks you to use
  • Avoid making assumptions about a person’s gender and use gender-neutral terms
  • Ask which pronouns you should use
  • Correct mistakes in the moment and continue the conversation you’re having
  • Consider adding your pronouns to your email signature to normalize the discussion around gender and pronouns
  • Avoid using terms that have negative historical connotations for excluding underrepresented groups
  • Challenge unconscious bias in language 
  • Be accountable for the intention behind your communication
  • Think about communicating using the plain language principles

Why is it important?

We’re all worthy of feeling safe, included, and valued in all aspects of our lives. It seems obvious to say, but there’s still work to be done to ensure diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity in the business world. Whether it’s within your organization, or the message you present to customers, your brand language is a clear predictor of how your brand will behave. 

Many companies have a growth mindset, but it’s equally as important to have an inclusive mindset. There’s been a flurry of motivation for companies to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s even become trendy. But the consequences for those on the opposite side of the “trend” are very real. So it’s important to use inclusive language with thoughtfulness. 

And it includes how you communicate with your employees, as well as your customers. Inclusive language is just one of the first pieces in the puzzle though – to build an inclusive workplace you have to think about how you treat your employees, what type of work culture you encourage, and the language you use with each other. This type of environment helps your employees flourish.

How Acrolinx can help your workplace

Words matter. Many companies are reviewing 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, person-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.