9 Tips for Using Equitable Language & Why It Matters

March 9, 2022

~2 minute read

Inclusive language has been a hot topic online for several years now. Whether it’s educational TikToks on gender identity, Tumblr discussions on ableist language or arguments on Twitter about culture and religion, there’s a lot to wade through. 

While discussion and education are essential, getting to grips with inclusive language in all of its forms can seem overwhelming. Many professionals and brands know it matters but aren’t sure where to begin. Here are a few starting points to consider if your goal is to ensure your marketing and communications are as equitable as possible.

  1. Keep various forms of inclusivity in mind, including culture, religion, sexuality, gender identity and ability or disability. All are equally important to be considerate of when striving for greater equity and inclusivity.
  2. Be certain that the terms you’re using are correct. Many common phrases and colloquialisms are rooted in inequity against cultures, religions, genders and abilities. They often remain in use due to unconscious bias or embedded metaphors.
  3. Use neutral language as often as possible. Whether it’s gendered phrases and assumption of pronouns or pointing out aspects of identity, such as ethinic origin, consider if those details are truly relevant to your message.
  4. Be objective, not subjective. If it’s relevant to talk about identifiers and there’s a specific term that can be used, do so instead of opting for descriptive words like diverse or underrepresented. A best practice is to use the terms people want to be called by.
  5. Avoid vague phrases. These are often used in attempts to avoid perceived discomfort. If it’s relevant to mention, instead of fluffy terms like differently abled, simply say people with disabilities or disabled people. Pet phrases can indicate that you’re uncomfortable or unwilling to acknowledge aspects of identity. 
  1. Recognize that different opinions exist. A great example of this is within the disabled community, where some people prefer person-first language while others prefer identity-first language. (ex. a person with a disability vs. a disabled person.)
  2. Look to the experts. There are many reputable resources available; university policies, press stylebooks, manuals published by expert organizations and the American Psychological Association, whose guidelines are used by writers of many disciplines for concise and powerful communication.
  3. Accept that you won’t always get it right. Despite best efforts, you may still inadvertently use language that is incorrect. If it’s pointed out to you, the best approach is to simply acknowledge, apologize, learn – and remember for next time.
  4. Appreciate the power of using equitable language. Whether you’re creating digital ads, blog posts or e-newsletters, inclusive messaging is worthwhile. It shows your coworkers and your audience that you’re considerate and welcoming of all people, which can contribute to a positive workplace culture and increased business. 

Improving the equity of your language is a process, but it doesn’t have to be an arduous one. Keep these points in mind and you can engage a wider audience who feels included and appreciated for everything they are. 

Written by Danielle Windecker