How to make your marketing language inclusive

November 16, 2022

Is your language opening or closing doors?

The words you use and the way you communicate is a personal choice. Your brand voice has considerable influence on your marketing strategy. Increasingly, marketers recognize the currency of inclusive language and its power to make a positive impact on a wider range of audiences. But what is inclusive language?

At its core, inclusion is about recognizing that your potential customers comprise diverse groups of people. In content creation, inclusion respects diversity in all forms, including ethnicity, gender identity, religion/spirituality, physical/mental ability and more. If your brand doesn’t convey a sense of inclusivity, you may inadvertently exclude some audiences. Millennials and Generation Z, with their substantial spending power, have done much to accelerate the inclusive language movement.1

Why it matters

Language is powerful — it can deepen and strengthen relationships, or it can confuse or even cause avoidable harm. Inclusive language encompasses words and phrases that can spark conversations with new clients and unlock valuable doors. Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group and Harvard Business Review research shows the same truth. Is your language tapping into that relationship-building potential?

Evolve with your customers

What’s great about language is that it’s flexible, expressive and evolves over time. Ultimately, we understand the bottom-line value of keeping pace with changing demographics and preferences. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary added 370 new words in 2022 and suggested that when many people use a word in the same way over a long enough period, that word becomes eligible for inclusion.

Make it a brand practice

Everyone’s brand is unique. By considering how inclusion fits into your brand, you’ll expand your reach and visibility into the future, earning audience loyalty and trust. The key is to make inclusive content an ongoing process that adapts with your stakeholders and audiences.

Ways to make language more inclusive

You might want to start with ensuring your marketing materials, websites and all your other assets reflect the varied population and voices around us. Here are some inclusive language options to consider:

Use plain language versus jargon

  • Rather than “piece of cake,” say “straightforward,” “easy” or “simple”
  • A phrase like “in light of” turns more succinctly into “because of”
  • We are not “in the loop” but we “are aware”

Pay attention to pronouns

  • According to The Associated Press Stylebook, it’s preferable to refer to a person as “they” instead of “he” or “she”
  • Rather than “man” or “woman,” use “person” or “individual”
  • It’s not “his” or “her” document, but “their” document

Put everyone in the picture

  • Make sure your images and emojis include a wide cross-section of people and groups
  • Consider using both colours and labels in design for people who can’t distinguish hues
  • On websites, use both images and text so that everyone gets the message  

Adopt gender-neutral family labels

  • Use “parent” or “guardian” versus “mom” and “dad”
  • Replace “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” or “partner”
  • “Pibling” has become popular when referring to aunts and uncles (stands for parent’s sibling)

Be mindful of accessibility-inclusive language

  • Commonplace expressions like “turning a blind eye” could be perceived as insensitive
  • A person is “hard of hearing” rather than “hearing impaired”
  • Rather than “wheelchair bound,” a person “uses a wheelchair” to assist with mobility

It’s a good idea for companies and their brands to craft their own approach toward using inclusive language to create messages that resonate with each audience segment.

Interested in learning more? Let Ext. help you integrate inclusive language so you can connect with more people, communities and opportunities. Contact us today at 1.844.243.1830 or info@ext-marketing.com.