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Why should your brand use inclusive language?

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are all the rage – especially during Pride month, and in particular around the subject of LGBTQ+ people’s rights. Many businesses consider these issues only in June. It shouldn’t be this way. In fact, if your company only ever speaks about this when the subject is in fashion, you could be accused of pinkwashing – and rightfully so.

What’s pinkwashing?

Pinkwashing, also known as rainbow washing, has been very neatly defined by THIS IS GENDERED as this:

Text reads: Rainbow washing, noun, 1. The act of using or adding rainbow colours and/or imagery to advertising, apparel, accessories, landmarks, et cetera, in order to indicate progressive support for LGBTQ+ equality (and earn consumer credibility)–but with a minimum of effort or pragmatic result. // akin to “green washing” regarding environmental justice issues and “pink washing” with respect to breast cancer/LGBTQ+ rights.

Therefore, if your company or brand only speaks out in support of the LGBTQ+ community in June, or releases a bunch of rainbow-themed products for Pride month, you’re not pulling your weight. Unfortunately, these actions are profit- or publicity-driven and are extremely superficial.

But there is something you can do to show your allyship on a daily basis: focus on communication based on inclusive language.

What is inclusive language?

In the About section of my website, you can find my definition of inclusive language. Which is this: the main aim of inclusive language is to ensure that our message does not offend, exclude or alienate anyone. As such, inclusive language should be free from prejudiced vocabulary – as with regards to gender, skin colour, sexuality or abilities.

Language is an extremely powerful tool and word choice matters. What's more, language keeps changing. Certain expressions that were once neutral no longer have a place in today's world.

That said, each language has its own set of rules for inclusive communication. Solutions used in English may not necessarily work in Polish, Spanish, French or any other language.

What are some examples of inclusive language?

You already know that inclusive language is rooted in respect and empathy, and that for each language this will mean something different.

For example, in Polish, which is an extremely gendered language (even past tense verb forms look different depending on the subject’s gender), it is now common to use both masculine and feminine forms of nouns. Rather than Drodzy Słuchacze (‘Dear Listeners’, in masculine plural), podcast hosts will more often say Drodzy Słuchacze i Drogie Słuchaczki (‘Dear Listeners’ again, but first in masculine plural and then in feminine plural).

Grapes in different colours of the raibow

However, this may still exclude non-binary people, so sometimes a gender neutral form would be a better choice: Drogie Osoby Słuchające (‘Dear Persons Who Are Listening’). But, depending on the subject of the text and space restrictions, using these forms might not be possible in each instance. My favourite solution is to mix all of the above, as it will also provide a more varied read. in Polish repetitions are even less common than in English – we favour style over consistency.

In English, though, gender-neutral forms are preferred. Rather than ‘chairman’, a committee’s or board’s leader will be called ‘chairperson’ or simply ‘chair’. Many actresses now wish to be called actors, like their male peers. And gone are the days when app users or customers would be referred to by the pronoun ‘he’ – singular ‘they’ has become the norm.

But grammar is just one element of the inclusive puzzle. When crafting your content, you should also be asking questions such as:

  • Am I using the LGBTQ+-friendly terminology?

  • Do I know how best to refer to people of various ethnicities?

  • Are my visuals showing people of diverse backgrounds and abilities?

  • Is my text accessible for people with disabilities?

  • Am I using the right font?

  • Have I commissioned a subtitler or an audio describer for my video content?

  • Is my text written in an understandable way?

How to make sure the inclusive language you use is actually inclusive?

As always, it’s best to work with a specialist. If your company produces a lot of content, you may want to hire an inclusive language copywriter or a consultant to look over each text. However, that’s not the only way to ensure inclusivity in your message.

I’d highly recommend training your staff, as it would be a good investment for the whole company. Nowadays, it’s easy to access training resources online: I’d recommend sources such as:

These are just a few examples, so they might not answer all the questions your team has. It might be worth to simply hire a specialist to deliver an online or in-person training for your company.

Ready to start your company’s

inclusive language journey?

Want your team to learn how to write

in a respectful and empathetic way?

Or perhaps you need another pair of eyes

to go over some of your key content?


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