Editorial

The Value Of Inclusive Language

How much does inclusive language matter? Can you tell whether or not someone has considered the perspectives of those who don’t share their same background?

Language shapes people’s perceptions of reality. When they speak, they communicate ideas through words. And these words also shape their understanding of the world around them.

What is an inclusive language?

Inclusive language refers to the use of language that includes people with disabilities, women, older workers, racial minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others. It means using language that reflects the diversity of society.

Why do you need inclusive language?

People have different backgrounds and experiences. They may come from different cultures, live in different neighborhoods, work for different companies, and even hold different beliefs.

When people talk about something, they often only think about themselves. But when they include other people in their conversations, they learn more about the person they’re talking to and understand how they see things differently. It helps gain empathy for others and become better listeners.

Through inclusive language, people also realize that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. They acknowledge their contributions and recognize their differences by including others in discussions.

For example, the use of aboriginal vs indigenous language can cause misunderstanding because both terms refer to native peoples living on land traditionally owned by First Nations. However, “indigenous” encompasses plant and animal species. Thus, the term “aboriginal” has been replaced with “indigenous,” and the latter is often more generally preferred.

Another example is the use of gender-neutral pronouns. The word “they” was originally used to describe a third person. Nowadays, many people use “they” instead of “he” or “she” to avoid gender bias.

Use inclusive language symbol. Wooden blocks with words ‘Use inclusive language’. Beautiful canvas background, businessman hand. Business and use inclusive language concept. Copy space.

The evolution of language

As human beings, people have constantly been evolving. Societies and languages have changed over time. For example, the English language evolved from Anglo Saxon to Middle English to Modern English.

Today, there are many ways to express yourself. You can write an email, text message, make a phone call, or tweet or post on social media. Each forms of communication allows you to say what you want without worrying about how it will be interpreted.

However, some people still struggle to find the right words to convey their thoughts. They might feel frustrated if they cannot express themselves clearly.

That’s why inclusive language matters. It gives everyone equal opportunities to participate in conversations and ensures no one feels left out.

What does inclusive language look like?

There are many ways to include people in conversations. Here are some examples:

  • Be aware of your own biases.
  • Learn about the history of language.
  • Practice speaking and listening skills.
  • Ask questions to ensure that you are communicating effectively.
  • Avoid stereotypes.
  • Don’t assume that everyone understands the same thing.
  • Make sure that you don’t offend anyone.
  • If someone asks you to repeat yourself, ask them to explain what they heard so that you can clarify.
  • Understand that people’s actions, thoughts, and opinions are driven by their culture, knowledge, and experiences.

The importance of terminology

Inclusive language is important because it reflects the values of the society a person belongs to. It’s not good practice to exclude any group of people from participating in any public discourse.

Some examples of inclusive language are:

  • Aboriginal (instead of indigenous)
  • Gender neutral (instead of male/female)
  • People with disabilities (instead of disabled)
  • LGBTQ+ (instead of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer)
  • People with different religious beliefs (instead of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.)

Terminology plays a vital role in inclusive language. When using inclusive language, you need to know which terms to use for specific groups of people. It is essential to understand the difference between terms and when to use each one.

Terminology has become more diverse nowadays. Words are now being used differently than before the rise of the internet. It means that people now have more options than ever before. They can choose from hundreds of terms to represent their ideas.

More than just vocabulary

Remember that inclusive language is not just about vocabulary. It is also about attitude. The real value of inclusive language lies in its ability to promote understanding and respect.

When you communicate with others, you must consider how they perceive things. It means that you need to think about the context of the conversation.

You may be surprised to discover that even though you are talking to someone with the same background, you may still be perceived differently.

Creating a positive environment through inclusive language

Inclusive language helps build relationships based on mutual trust and respect. It encourages people to listen to each other and develop a sense of belonging. In addition, inclusive language promotes equality and fairness, enabling all community members to share their views and experiences and helping them to understand each other better.

People often talk about diversity and inclusion because these concepts are closely related. Diversity refers to differences within a group. For example, different cultures, religions, races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, and ages exist. Inclusion refers to bringing these differences together into a single group.

Diversity and inclusion can be seen as two sides of the same coin. Both refer to creating environments where people feel safe and valued.

Final thoughts

Inclusive language is a way of life. You cannot avoid using it at work or school. If you want to impact the world and the people around you, you can start with small changes in your everyday interactions. Make inclusive language part of your daily routine.

References:

(1) Dr. Linc Kesler, “Aboriginal Identity & Terminology,” indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca, February 10, 2020, https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/aboriginal_identity__terminology/

(2) DifferenceBetween.com, “Difference Between Aboriginal and Indigenous,” Difference Between, August 20, 2013, https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-aboriginal-and-vs-indigenous/#:~:text=%20Difference%20Between%20Aboriginal%20and%20Indigenous%20%201,people%20but%20also%20the%20plant%20and…%20More%20

(3) eige.europa.eu, “Gender-sensitive Communication,” eige.europa.eu,  n.d., https://eige.europa.eu/publications/gender-sensitive-communication/challenges/stereotypes/avoid-gendered-pronouns-he-or-she-when-persons-gender-unknown

(4) The Washington Post, “24 words that mean totally different things now than they did pre-Internet,” The Washington Post, n.d., https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/10/15/24-words-that-mean-totally-different-things-now-than-they-did-pre-internet/

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