When anything (books, periodicals, films, or television programs) is written to represent and respect the realities of particular groups properly, inclusive language is utilized. When literature is not inclusive, it may make these groups feel excluded, as if the work is not for them – and may even lead them to discontinue consumption altogether.
Consider that you are a devout scout leader who has just picked up a book by a beloved author – a good thriller named The Scoutmaster. While you were eager to read it, you soon discover the author got a lot wrong: from vocabulary to the main character's depiction, nothing fits your reality. You don't recognize yourself in the text, and it seems as if the author is uninterested in scouting or scouts. Additionally, the novel is built on prejudices and preconceived notions!
In other words, they have not written about scouting exhaustively.
To be clear, the discussion about inclusive writing is centered on marginalized communities: those who are excluded or punished in mainstream society and culture, often due to a history of oppression. This involves, but is not limited to, individuals who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, neurodivergent, or handicapped.
The subject of inclusive writing is thorny and complex. Still, in this blog, we'll attempt to take a nuanced look at some of the less-than-inclusive terms and writing habits that authors may have acquired over time — and offer some simple tweaks that can help you welcome a broader range of readers into the wonderful world of your writing.
Inclusive Language: Definition
Inclusive language is described as "language that avoids using certain phrases or terms that may be interpreted as excluding specific groups of people." Although the language may be used to exclude any individual or group, this phrase is often used to refer to historically underrepresented or disadvantaged groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities or members of the LGBTQ community. Additionally, inclusive language is utilized to prevent upsetting or degrading others based on stereotypes or subjective judgments.
Utilizing inclusive language demonstrates that you are aware of and appreciative of the many views, identities, and ideas brought to the table by other people. This contributes to creating a safe and open atmosphere in which people feel secure in the knowledge that they will not be condemned or looked down upon for who they are or for traits they cannot control. Additionally, adopting inclusive language demonstrates that you expect the same politeness from others and emphasizes mutual respect in your interactions.
Importance of Inclusive Language
It has been very simple for certain words and concepts to get entrenched that seem harmless throughout history but are inappropriate or insulting to certain disadvantaged people. These components have infiltrated our language mainly because the people in issue have historically lacked authority.
A large part of inclusive writing is just being aware of and avoiding such obsolete words (which is why we'll discuss some of the most frequent issue phrases below!). On the other hand, true inclusive writing should go farther than this, taking into account less apparent, more implicit barriers between groups rather than blatant insults and stereotypes. For instance, while using the words "we" and "our" in writing is occasionally necessary and frequently harmless, not all readers will have the same experience and, depending on the context, may feel unacknowledged or misunderstood when authors write "we" without considering who constitutes that imagined group.
In essence, inclusive writing's goal is to a) identify instances in which one's natural writing style unintentionally contains hurtful words, promotes stereotypes, or otherwise "others" prospective readers — and then b) strive to remove these instances. Once an author grasps this, they may utilize their imagination and skill to write with much more purpose and openness.