Throughout the past years, many companies have been striving to launch their own initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion. A goal in itself fought strongly over the years by societies and community leaders, diversity and inclusion today go hand in hand, pushing for transformation across the private and public sphere.
Today, any diverse and inclusive company drives more innovative results than any other company in the market. Why? Because their messages get across, making sure that no reader or customer feels excluded.
The real challenge as such, is writing and delivering messages that are gender-neutral, unbiased and inclusive. Claiming to fight for diversity and inclusion is not enough, one must actually pay attention to the smallest details.
In this article, we will be sharing with content writers some of the best practices on how to promote diversity and inclusion through their writing, without sounding too awkward or fake.
1. Avoid gendered nouns:
Common nouns like “man” or nouns ending in “-man” are often overlooked by writers. Because these are nouns that we use in our common language almost every minute of everyday, it can get quite challenging to understand their connotation and impact.
Truth is, using these nouns ends up excluding many of your readers. To truly be an advocate of diversity and inclusion, go for neutral nouns instead.
Below is a list of gendered nouns and their alternatives:
- Man | Person, individual
- Mankind | People, Human beings, Humanity, Human kind
- Freshman | First-year student
- Chairman | Chairperson
- Mailman | Mail carrier
- Policeman | Police officer
- Spokesman | Spokesperson
- Salesman | Salesperson
- Fireman | Firefighter
- Congressman | Congress representative
2. Go for neutral pronouns:
The English language provides different pronouns for references to masculine and feminine nouns. When writing, writers often make the mistake of using the masculine pronoun (he) by default, implying that this is the norm. This practice is outdated and risks excluding many of your readers.
Instead, you have many possibilities. For example, you can:
– Use more than one pronoun in one sentence to convey gender variability:
E.g: When the winner has been selected, she or he will be advanced to the next round of the competition.
– Use plural pronouns and nouns to convey gender variability:
Students who lose too much sleep may have trouble focusing during their exams.
3. Choose the kind of information you’re sharing:
Diversity and inclusion can be promoted not just through the language of your writing, but also the content. While writing, avoid referring to negative assumptions about weight, gender, race, ethnicities or even appearances. When such assumptions are included, your writing is often perceived as biased, incomplete and full of generalizations.
However, if you feel an unfulfilled need to talk about someone’s weight, gender, race, weight, ethnicity or appearance, ask yourself the following questions:
Is it necessary to do so?
Will all my readers feel respected?
Will some get offended?
Putting yourself in the shoes of your readers will help you promote diversity and inclusion whenever you take on a content writing task.
4. Go for neutral adjectives:
Many writers can’t resist the need to add gender-izing or ethnic-related adjectives before any perfectly neutral noun. In fact, the use of “female president”, “male nurse”, “woman doctor”, “black teacher” and so many other racial-specific and gender-specific nouns is problematic because it always leads to excluding some of your readers.
Avoid adding qualifiers or adjectives for the sake of producing longer or stronger statements, because there’s really no distinction and it takes away from your diverse and inclusive position.
While these may seem like small details no one really notices, words will always have the largest impact on people. When writers start paying attention to what they write, real social and cultural change can be enacted one step at a time.