July 15, 2022

The importance of inclusive language to identify everyone

By The Bodyguard Team
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Language is always evolving, and inclusive language is an essential part of today’s society.

We communicate through language constantly, whether on social media, websites, or face-to-face. For brands and businesses that use social media, they are also constantly communicating with their audience: and how they do that can affect whether they win or lose a new customer.

Think about a time when you have had a bad experience online. Perhaps you read a blog which you felt was offensive to gay people because of the language it used. Or maybe a new advertising campaign made you feel uncomfortable because of its imagery. After a bad experience due to online toxicity, users are unlikely to return to the same website or social media page. And when it comes to business, that means losing out on revenue and customer loyalty.

For all of these reasons, using inclusive language online is vital for people and businesses.

What is inclusive language?

Inclusive language treats everyone as equal and has no biases. Stereotypes should never be used when discussing race, ethnicity, ability, age, gender or sexual orientation.

The objective of using inclusive language is to give respect to the person or community you’re addressing. It avoids insulting them, using homophobia, sexism or racism, and treats them as an individual with their own values. 

Inclusive language doesn't cover bad language, swearing or freedom of speech: it’s about using the correct, most respectful and current terms. For example, a couple may refer to their partner, rather than boyfriend or girlfriend. Teachers may use parent, instead of father or mother.

It’s easy to make a mistake in everyday conversation without even realising you’re doing it. A classic error in business is referring to a group of people as ‘guys’. While the speaker is usually trying to introduce familiarity, this expression is often considered unacceptable in the modern world.

Other examples of inclusive language

Using inclusive language is like referring to an unwritten style guide. You may think you know the kind of terms that insults someone, but you’re not sure of the definitive list. In fact, there isn't one. Every situation is different. 

One of the most common examples of inclusive language includes using the preferred pronouns for people – he/she/they. At school, many of us were taught to write "Dear Sir or Madam", which today brings with it the dilemma of how to address people who don't identify as being male or female. Other examples include landlord being replaced by property owner, salesman being replaced by salesperson, and using homemaker instead of housewife… the list is endless.

Why inclusive language is vital in business

Words are a powerful tool, particularly in business. We write articles, post on Instagram, and chat with potential customers: it's all a form of marketing. In the past, businesses only had to consider their target market’s age, gender, and other specifics. Today, it’s different: we have to consider people’s well-being.

For example, your product may be an anti-aging face cream and your target market may be women aged over 50. How are you going to market to them without excluding other social groups? 

From another point of view, the toxic content users can post on your platform that doesn’t comply with inclusive language can damage your brand.

To attract and retain customers, an understanding of correct inclusive language is essential.

How technology can help with inclusive language

If your customer database includes thousands of names, selecting the terms you don't want on your pages (either posted by users or employees) and replacing them with more socially acceptable wording could be an endless job.

This is where Bodyguard can help. Our moderation solution allows businesses to tailor their databases to suit the needs of inclusive language. 

For example, gender-neutral language is essential today, so as not to offend and address people correctly to ensure equality. 

Our NLP (natural language processing) team is made up of linguistic experts who create new and adapts existing rules to fit our moderation guidelines. They constantly work to ensure Bodyguard software recognizes language development and new terms. 

This has the potential to increase brand loyalty by enhancing the user experience and promoting you as a modern, caring business who is acutely aware of the need to be inclusive, both in the digital and real world.

Inclusive language should be an extension of an inclusive approach to people in general. Rather than being driven by a need to 'look good' or acquire new business, it should come from a genuine desire to create a safer, more comfortable online experience for everyone.

To learn more about how Bodyguard moderation can help your brand create a more positive, safe and inclusive online environment, contact us.

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