inclusive

When you write for your business, you are aiming to help your customers understand the value of your product or services. Big brands use simple, everyday language in everything they do, from the text on their websites, to the details of their service agreements. This is the essence of inclusive language. No matter the size of your business, using clear and inclusive language will help your customers feel more welcome, and it will help you build a strong brand.

Using inclusive language helps your writing resonate with more people, and it helps you build a strong brand.

Inclusive writing avoids language that discriminates on people based on their age, ethnicity, ability, and social standing. These are basic principles when it comes to writing for your business. You and the people that write for you will know what words not to use, based on experience. According to UK initiative Communication Access, inclusive communication is sharing information in a way that everyone can understand. It is also about supporting people to express themselves in their own way.

However, there could be words or phrases that create barriers for people without you necessarily knowing it. This can create confusion, and make your brand lose impact.

Just because we understand a term very well because it is our bread and butter, it does not mean that everyone will be familiar with it. People who do not speak English as a first language may struggle with a word that we consider common place. People with reading or learning difficulties may find it impossible to follow a piece of text that does not have a clear structure and defined headings.

Inclusive language can make your brand accessible to more people, and it helps you tell a more coherent and honest story about your business.

There are simple things you can remember that will help you write with inclusive language and make your brand stronger.

Tip 1: Use active rather than passive language

Using active language in your sentences helps you write shorter and more concise text. This is all about going straight to the point, instead of making circles around it.

🤓 Example

A sentence with passive language:

At a meeting with senior sector stakeholders in Neverland reviewing evidence from a survey about people’s views of hotel’s it was decided that more training is needed for receptionists that talk to people with mental health needs. (word count: 37)

Same message, using active language:

We shared your views about hotels with local managers in Neverland. As a result, receptionists will get training on how to talk with people that have mental health needs. (Two sentences to make ideas clearer, with max word count of 18)

Tip 2: Avoid jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations

Jargon gets a bad rep. I have seen a lot of funny words in the corporate world, and most of it was an etymologically complicated version of a simple word, like “happy” or “work together”. But sometimes, that funny word plays an important part in taking your employees (internal audience) on a journey.

Although specialised language has a prominent role in business, it is not always a useful way to write for customers (external audience).

Jargon may confuse your customers and make them feel unsure about what it is you are selling to them.

So, if your writing contains specialist or trademark terms, you should try and replace them. If you must use terms or acronyms, make sure that you explain them at least once and use the same term consistently across all your communication.

🤓 Example replacement words for more inclusive language

  • Additional= extra
  • Consequently= so
  • In respect of= for
  • On receipt= when we/you get
  • On request= if you ask

Tip 3: Communicate one idea per sentence

Including too many thoughts in one sentence can be risky. This is because long and meandering sentences can make your message less clear. You risk making your customers forget the point of the sentence by the time they reach the end of it. Try and keep sentences about 20 words long.

🤓 Example

Long sentence with no breaks:

The discovery project wanted to explore the reasons why people do not take up the offer of healthier snack choices and so we worked with Diabetes Awareness UK, to do outreach and engagement sessions in Neverland and in particular; ethnically diverse communities. (word count: 42)

One idea per sentence:

We wanted to understand why people do not take up the offer of healthier snacks. We worked with Diabetes Awareness UK to speak to people in Neverland. We made sure to speak to people from ethnically diverse communities. (max word count: 11)

⭐ Learn more about this

Check out the blog ‘Three ways to tame a sentence‘ by learning and development provider Emphasis. 

Tip 4: Make the structure of your text clear with headings and lists

This point will help you when you must write longer documents for your customers. You may need to write a policy, or terms of service. Moving through the text in a logical way will help you customers take the journey with you and understand your point better.

But this also helps when it comes to writing copy for your website. Using headings will help customers find key information easier. Using lists will help you break down long sentences and paragraphs and make your points clearer.

In addition to making your text easier to skim, headings will also make your text more accessible.

People who have visual impairments will be able to use your website better. The headings will tell accessibility software where to go next, and they will help the user navigate your site more easily.

Using clear headings and a logical structure in your content does not only help your visitors. Using clear structure like this online also makes your website easier to find on search engines.

Text with headings helps search engine crawlers understand the hierarchy and context of your information, influencing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

🤓 Example

Long sentence with passive language:

Each guide was designed by students and contains practical activities, resources and advice on academic skills, money and careers, and student life to help make your experience a little easier. (Word count: 30)

New version with active langauge and bullets (max word count: 15):

Our students designed the guides to make your experience of student life a little easier. Each guide contains:

  • practical activities
  • resources and advice on academic skills
  • money and careers tips.

⭐ Learn more about this

If you want to make your message clear and more accessible, speak to me about my inclusive branding workshops, which I will customise to your own brand identity.

These are my top four tips for building a strong brand with inclusive language.

What do you think? Do you know of other ways that you can use inclusive language in your business? If you want to receive updates from me with useful tips like the ones I shared in this blog, join the Work Happy Community.