How to Use Inclusive Language to Make Your Writing Shine

For the betterment of your readers and your work

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IMAGE: originally posted by ‘tomatomagica’ (tumblr, 2019)

Inclusive Language: a definition

Most definitions do a poor job describing the expanse of Inclusive Language. Both Dictionary.com and Collins Dictionary define Inclusive Language as: “language that avoids the use of certain expressions or words that might be considered to exclude particular groups of people”. However, from both a writing and editing perspective, this definition only highlights a very small section of the role Inclusive Language plays in audience-text interaction.

The role of Inclusive Language in writing: why it’s necessary

Inclusive Language is tied to both effective communication and to the author-audience relationship. It is not political. Inclusive Language allows the audience to understand the text and feel respected within it. Without this relationship, the potential for miscommunication and audience-disengagement becomes rife.

The elements of Inclusive Language: a guide

The written word is educational and foundational to society, but has also played a role in reinforcing stereotypes, discrimination, and inequality. The publishing industry is continually evolving to try and combat these problems by using checks such as Inclusive Language to reach, respect, and elevate, a wider audience.

How to use Inclusive Language: a checklist

  • Have you considered the possible diversities within your audience?
  • Does your writing accommodate the reading needs of your audience?
  • Are there any stereotyped, unnecessary, or degrading references in your writing?
  • Have calls to action or suggested actions been written in encouraging terms wherever possible, to increase the likelihood of their success with your audience?
  • Have you checked the correct spelling, capitalisation, and contextual use of terms in your work?
  • Is your writing inclusive toward your audience, and aware of their possible sensitivities or language preferences?
  • Is the tone of the piece suitable for both the subject and the readers?
  • Have you taken the time to correct any Inclusive Language mistakes that editors and consultants (pre-publishing), or readers and commenters (post-publishing) have pointed out in your writing?

Queer, Kiwi-Aussie writer and poet. BA in Creative Industries, avid chaser of representation, keen on coastlines and cats.

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