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Tips for Inclusive Language

Editor’s note: Final installment of a three-part series on inclusive language.

Recent events have many of us considering the terminology we use every day. Language is constantly evolving, and lately faster than ever. Here is guidance for those who want to learn more about how to incorporate inclusivity into their day-to-day lives.

“Inclusive language” avoids biases, slang or words that reflect discriminatory views against groups of people based on their race, gender or socioeconomic status. That simply means that it’s considerate and respectful communication. 

Here are three ways you can make your language more inclusive.

  • Use gender neutrality (think “mail carrier” instead of “mailman”)
  • Respect race and ethnicity (capitalize the “B” in Black)
  • Emphasize humanity (saying “people experiencing homelessness” instead of “the homeless”)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Part 3: Emphasizing humanity conveys respect for all people

The key to respectful communication is to emphasize the human side of the story, no matter the person’s situation. Rather than leaning on labels, which can place people into a box, focus instead on describing a person’s experience or condition by putting him or her at the forefront. Here are some examples of how to move away from labels and instead focus on humanity.

For example, experts recommend to:

Refrain from

Instead use

the homeless

people without housing

the poor

people dealing with economic hardship

the mentally ill

people with mental illnesses

When referring to groups of people with disabilities, taking a human-first approach would mean using language that is specific to the type of disability or symptoms. Be sensitive and respectful to people’s preferences and ask how they prefer to be described. For instance, there are those who refer to themselves more specifically with identity-first language (disabled person) or person-first language (person with a disability).

 

Here are some best practices recommended by experts:

Refrain from

Instead use

deaf

major hearing loss

blind

visually impaired

autistic

has autism

dyslexic

diagnosed with dyslexia

suffers from multiple sclerosis

has multiple sclerosis

 

Here’s a quick checklist to run through to ensure you’re putting humanity first in your communications.

  • Have I used words that dehumanize people by putting them in a box?
  • Have I mentioned someone’s disability? If so, was it necessary?
  • Am I relying on outdated stereotypes when there’s an alternative?
  • Do I provide the same detail of information when writing about people with different backgrounds?

Remember, ask yourself if the person is being identified respectfully. The inclusive language you use should embrace differences and forge a positive connection to the reader.

In short, whether you’re talking about gender, race, ethnicity or a condition, put people at the forefront of everything you do. Ask people how they want to be described and respect their feedback. Inclusive language allows us to remove barriers, promote communication and be open-minded.​​​​​​​

 
Deborah Digrispino
By Deborah Digrispino, GM Financial

Deborah Digrispino has an eagle eye for dotting the final “i” and crossing the final “t.” What motivates her is clear and concise communication that connects with the audience and begins a conversation. When the computer is turned off, her attention to detail is focused on Mafia movies (yes, take the cannoli), true crime documentaries and the search for celebrity gravesites.

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