Inclusive Language

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What is inclusive language?
  • In a nutshell, inclusive language refers to words or phrases that do not exclude people.
  • Inclusive language shows sensitivity and respect to individuals and groups, regardless of gender, language, culture, religion, race, ability, family structure, marital status, sexuality, origin, etc.
Why do we use inclusive language?
  • Everyone has the right to be treated equally with respect and dignity.
  • Inclusive language allows us to actively embrace diversity and avoid assumptions that could harm relationships that we want to build and foster.
Examples of inclusive language
  1. Use “server”. Avoid using “waiter” or “waitress”.
    • Describe the work, not the gender, when there’s no need to point out the gender;
    • Other examples include “police officer” instead of “policeman”, “mail carrier” instead of “mailman”, etc.
  2. Use “sexual orientation”; avoid using “sexual preference”.
    • The word “preference” implies a choice;
    • Most people do not see their sexuality as a choice.
  3. Use “partner”; avoid using “husband” or “wife”.
    • This helps to include more diverse family structures, such as same-sex couples, common-law couples, etc.
  4. Use “person with a physical challenge”, “person diagnosed with mental illness”, etc.
    • Try not to turn descriptors into nouns, e.g. “the handicapped”, “the blind”, etc.
  5. Use “person living on a fixed income”, “person who has trouble walking a short distance” instead of “the elderly”.
    • Try to be specific about the condition you are trying to describe;
    • People who cannot walk a short distance are not necessarily all older adults over 65.
General principles of using inclusive language
  1. There is a difference between in-group and out-group naming. One may use a term to refer to oneself, but the same term may be offensive when used by someone from outside that group or community;
  2. Avoid stereotyping languages to describe a person;
  3. Avoid specifying a person’s physical features or age unless it is necessary;
  4. Accept that all of us may, from time to time, use language that is not considered inclusive, and that is okay. All that matters is that we are aware that we are humans, we are not perfect, and we actively make an effort to improve ourselves and make our language more inclusive.

Word of the Day:

Embrace: to hold someone closely in one’s arms; to welcome, accept or support