Adopting inclusive language in your everyday life

AUGUST 13, 2021

Inclusive language is communication that welcomes and celebrates the diversity of all people.

The AlphaGroup of Medical Communications believes that inclusive language helps build stronger and lasting relationships by making our team members and clients feel like they belong. We want to retain clients and team members by asking about, listening to, and honoring their preferences, including using their correct pronouns and adopting people-first language.

Easy ways to incorporate inclusive language into your daily life.

As a result, AlphaGroup’s TIDE committee hosted an all-staff training session for team members to learn about the usage and importance of inclusive language, discuss why it is important, and determine how it is best used in a professional setting. They presented ways to incorporate this type of language in daily speech and small ways that we can make active changes, not just in our business relationships, but in our home and social lives as well.

Some easy ways to incorporate inclusive language into your daily life are:

  • Use greetings that contain all-inclusive terms such as “everyone” or “team” instead of “ladies and gentlemen”
  • Introduce yourself with your pronouns if comfortable
  • Adopt singular “they” when pronouns are unknown or ask for clarification
  • Ask for pronunciation of first and last names when unfamiliar to you
  • Instead of asking questions such as “Do you have kids?” or “Do you have a husband?”, use open language such as “tell me about your family”; this will allow the person you are addressing to answer in any way they feel comfortable
  • Avoid stereotypes
  • Opt for “partner” instead of “husband/wife” when inquiring about another person’s marital or relationship status
  • Instead of using slang with historical implications, say what you actually mean
    • Instead of saying “Spirit Animal,” which can be an offensive oversimplification of indigenous communities, say “kindred spirit”
    • Instead of saying “Ghetto,” which has historical meanings relating to both genocide and race, say what you mean by choosing phrases like “low-income neighborhood”

Inclusive language helps build stronger and lasting relationships by making our team members and clients feel like they belong.    

The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA)—a national, not-for-profit, nonpartisan, professional organization comprising the country’s 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies—highlights the importance of inclusive language by stating: “historic and systemic injustice toward some groups has created bias and prejudice that seeps into everyday language. Because language use is deeply ingrained, mirroring patterns and cultural norms learned from infancy, we may not always be conscious of the harm our words can inflict, especially if we belong to a group holding power.”

Taking the time to be more mindful of the language you are using is a great first step. And remember … slow down, think it through, and it’s okay to make mistakes. What’s important is to learn from them.