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Inclusive Language

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Inclusive Language

 

Inclusive language uses wording that avoids implying or expressing ideas that are racist, sexist, otherwise prejudiced, biased, or insulting to people. In recruiting and hiring practices, inclusive language doesn’t marginalize humans based on their lived experiences or social identities. 

 

An additional aim of inclusive language is to produce and distribute content that is credible and accessible to a wide audience. In the media, inclusive language is used to meet journalistic objectivity standards. Style guide publishers that have adopted inclusive language guidelines include The Chicago Manual of Style, the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Associate Press (AP)

 

Examples: 

 

Some examples of inclusive language principles include:

 

  • Inclusive language doesn’t assume a person’s identity and avoids generalizations. 

  • If unsure, ask. For example, an application may have an optional field where applicants can list their preferred pronouns. A hiring manager can also put their own preferred pronouns in email signatures or on social media profiles to indicate that they work in an inclusive workplace. 

  • The word handicapped is dated. Instead, the appropriate phrase is “person with a disability.” 

  • Characteristics such as sexual orientation, gender, ability, racial group, or religion are only mentioned when the discussion warrants it. An example would be if a company is interviewing candidates who will be working on a team to build diversity within the organization. 

  • Words such as foreman, chairman, man hours, and manpower are less inclusive. Use alternative and more inclusive words such as workers, chairperson, personnel, or team. 

  • Be aware of labels that are indicative of gender biases. For example, a confident man is commonly called assertive, while a confident woman is sometimes labeled “bossy.” 

  • The word “minority” and the phrase “underrepresented minority” are dated and non-inclusive. Alternatives include the phrases “marginalized groups,” “systemically minoritized groups,” or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). 

  • The use of words such as “ladies” or “guys” to address a group of individuals is not gender-neutral language. Inclusive language for addressing a group can include words such as “people,” “folks,” “team,” and “you all.” 

  • Instead of using the dated phrase of Limited English Proficiency (LEP), use more inclusive phrases such as Emergent Bilinguals or English Language Learners. 

  • Avoid using mental health diagnoses to describe behaviors. For example, people without a mental health diagnosis may say they’re “A.D.D.” or “O.C.D.” to describe behavioral tendencies. This type of language underplays the impact people with mental disorders experience. 

  • If a person is on the autism spectrum or has a psychiatric diagnosis such as A.D.H.D., use the term “neurodiverse” if there is a need to mention their diagnosis at all. 

 

When communicating, the best thing anyone can do to be sure they’re using inclusive language is to put people first. Here are some examples of people-first language:

 

  • Instead of “a deaf man,” say “a man who is deaf.”

  • Instead of “a salesman,” say “a man (or woman) on our sales team.” 

  • Instead of “an autistic girl,” say “a girl with autism.” 

  • Instead of “disabled people,” say “people who are disabled.”

 

Related Terms

Bias-Free Communication

refers to writing or speech that attempts to include people of all gender identities, ethnicities, religious affiliations, sexual orientations, ages, and abilities. With bias-free communication, information is imparted in a way that doesn’t make assumptions about the person receiving the communication.

Gender-Neutral Language

avoids bias toward or against a particular gender or sex. In English, gender-inclusive language includes discontinuing the blanket usage of either male or female terms and non-gender-specific nouns to refer to jobs, professions, or roles. This includes using the pronoun “they” when speaking generally instead of defaulting to “he,” an accepted practice in the past. 

Gender-Inclusive Language

is a term used interchangeably with gender-neutral language.

Diversity Hiring

is the conscious practice of creating a diverse workforce by hiring employees from diverse backgrounds, including sexual orientations, races, national origins, and genders.

Disparate Impact

refers to policies, practices, or procedures that appear neutral but may negatively impact a legally protected group. In some cases, disparate impact is unintentional but nonetheless harmful.

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