In a previous blog, we shared some SEO best practices that businesses can look into to improve their website’s visibility. But as we all know, marketing doesn’t end at awareness — we also have to keep people’s attention, and keep them satisfied. One important factor in this, that deserves its own blog feature, is inclusive language.
What is inclusive language?
Inclusive language is the use of words and expressions that do not discriminate against race, gender, socioeconomic status or ability. It is also being aware of, and sensitive to, the needs and feelings of different groups of people — and translating that to our use of language.
Why does it matter?
It’s only right.
Well, for one thing, it’s the right thing to do. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of their background or identity. Using inclusive language shows that we value diversity and inclusion, and that we are committed to creating a welcoming environment for all.
It brings business.
But, using inclusive language isn’t just about being polite. It’s also good for business. When a websites and marketing materials are inclusive, they are more likely to attract and retain customers from all walks of life. This is because inclusive language makes people feel seen and heard, which can lead to trust and loyalty.
According to Business Mirror, a recent study conducted by Agile Data Solutions revealed that 57% of Filipino customers are influenced by “woke” culture when making purchasing decisions. Woke culture (by the Merriam Webster definition) is the practice of being aware and attentive to societal facts and issues, and it is becoming increasingly prevalent in the Philippines. As a result, businesses that want to appeal to this demographic should work on being inclusive.
“Businesses and organizations should recognize these changing societal norms to better align their marketing efforts to stay relevant and connected to their consumers,” Agile co-founder Jason Gaguan said.
Even Big Brands Care.
We’re not the only ones that think inclusive language is important. Google, one of the highest value and most well known brands in the world, has stated that “Everyone should be able to use and enjoy the web. We are committed to making that a reality.” They also specifically tweeted about inclusive language, saying:
Creating a more welcoming environment by using inclusive language.
Of course, using inclusive language can be a challenge at first. There are many different factors to consider, and it can be easy to make mistakes. Because of that, it can be hard to know where to even begin. So, to make it easier for you, we’ve listed a few simple steps to help you get started:
📝 Use plain or simple English when writing.
We all use everyday expressions that might not be understood by people from other cultures. This can be a problem if your website is viewed by people from all over the world. To avoid confusion, it’s important to be aware of colloquial expressions and use them sparingly.
- Ballpark figure ➡️ estimate
- In the loop ➡️ aware
- Piece of cake ➡️ simple, easy
✨ Use gender-neutral terms.
Using gendered terms can be problematic because it can reinforce gender stereotypes. For example, if we only use the word “fireman” to refer to firefighters, it sends the message that firefighting is a job that is only for men. Using the gendered “fireman” in websites or marketing materials can make it seem like the brand agrees with that idea, and therefore alienate potential customers who disagree. Similarly, using “men and women” can exclude and alienate those who do do not identify being either one of those. To avoid these kinds of situations, it’s important to be mindful of avoiding gendered terms, and making an effort to use words that include all genders.
Here are a few examples:
- Chairman ➡️ chairperson or facilitator
- Salesman, saleswoman ➡️ sales representative
- Hi guys; Hello ladies and gentlemen ➡️ Hi everyone, team, folks
- man hours or manpower ➡️ work hours or workforce
👥 Show images that represent a wide range of people.
Your marketing materials should reflect a diverse group of people, so that potential customers and employees can see themselves represented. This will help you attract more people and grow your business.
🙇 Be mindful of medical conditions or limitations.
When talking about people with medical conditions or limitations, try using people-first language (PFL). This means putting the human before their condition. For example, say “a person with epilepsy” instead of “an epileptic person.” Doing this shows that you respect the person, and do not define them solely based on their condition. Colloquialisms connecting health impairments with negative connotations, like “crippled,” “insane,” or “invalid,” should also be avoided. Apart from being inclusive, doing these can also help promote a more compassionate and understanding society.
- Disabled, handicapped ➡️ people with disabilities
- Mentally handicapped, retarded ➡️ person with a learning disability
- Dwarf, midget ➡️ someone with restricted growth
Other useful tips:
- Do research. There are many resources available online that can help you learn about inclusive language, many of them by respected health institutions and government offices. Remember, these tips are just to get you started, and are not meant as a comprehensive guideline for inclusive language.
- Be flexible. Language and culture are ever-evolving. What’s a rule of thumb today can be obsolete tomorrow, and different audiences have different nuances and norms. Make sure to gauge the audience’s views regularly, and be open to adjusting terms as necessary.
- Be aware of your own biases. Everyone has biases, but it is important to be aware of them so that you can avoid using language that is discriminatory.
- Ask for feedback. Once you have made some changes to your website or marketing materials, ask people to review them and provide feedback. If at all possible, try to ask people from different backgrounds and experiences, in order to make sure your feedback does not get limited by a specific demographic’s opinions.
By using inclusive language on your website, you can improve your online visibility and accessibility. This can lead to more traffic and leads for your business. So, make sure to incorporate inclusive language into your strategy and create a more inclusive and welcoming online environment for everyone.
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