Inclusive Language 101
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Politics and Activism

Inclusive Language 101

What it is, why it's important and how to use it in everyday life

Inclusive Language 101

What is "inclusive language"?

Inclusive language is, simply put, a way to word things that is respectful and recognizes the different situations people are born into and grow up in. It encompasses using pronouns, nouns and forms of address, to name a few, in ways that don't shame or ostracize the audience.

Why should I use inclusive language?

Basically, inclusive language is a way to make sure you're acknowledging the differences that make people unique. It's not a means of "coddling" people or shielding them from the "real world", as some misinformed people claim. Rather, using this kind of language shows the person you're talking to that you genuinely care about things in their lives and want to be inclusive of everyone without making assumptions. Using inclusive language allows for those with less recognized identities to feel appreciated and validated without having to explicitly state their vulnerabilities.

How do I use inclusive language?

Here are some examples of how to implement inclusive language in all kinds of situations:

Instead of...
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen!"

"Good morning, everyone!"

There's really not any reason to bring gender into a greeting. Besides isolating those who identify outside the gender binary, it unnecessarily introduces a difference between two genders in a conversation that most likely does not involve separating people.

Instead of...
"Are your parents coming to visit?"

"Do you have any family visiting?"

Not everyone has parents who are both alive and present to attend events. Using the term "family" means that all people's definition of their "family" is included, whether or not their parents are a part of it.

Instead of...
"Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?"

"Are you seeing anybody?" OR just don't ask!

Most of the time, this question is entirely unnecessary— if somebody wants to talk about their dating lives, they will bring it up on their own. However, if you still feel the need to mention whether somebody is in any sort of relationship, avoid gendering their partner(s). This usually only comes up with someone you know relatively well, but don't make assumptions based on their past relationships, if you know of them.

Where can I learn more?

Honestly, Google is your best friend, along with practice and advice from people with more experience. Here are some useful links I've found that can better explain concepts like gendered nouns, person-centered language, and pronouns:

The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill

Unitarian Universalist Association

Tasmania Department of Education

Emerson College

Inclusivity in language really is a constant learning process as we as a society grow and realize our own flaws or preconceptions. With this evolution of thought, though, we can change simple words to make sure we are really providing a sense of community and importance to everyone we interact with.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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