Embracing the Power of Inclusive Language

Last updated on May 30th, 2023 at 03:46 pm

Group of People of Color communicating with the post title and Bela's logo.

A group of People of Color of varying ages are in a circle in a well-lit office space. One person is standing up, holding a clipboard, as if collecting information from the attendees. At the bottom of the photo is Embracing the Power of Inclusive Language, Bela Gaytan, Bela Gaytan dot com, and Bela’s logo.

Overview

Language holds immense power. It shapes our thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions. It also has the power to fuel misconceptions and harm, regardless of intent. In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, it is crucial that our language reflects inclusivity and respect for all individuals. In this article, we will explore the significance of inclusive language, shed light on the different types of non-inclusive language, and announce a collaborative project: the creation of an Inclusive Language Glossary. 

Table of Contents

What is Inclusive Language?

Inclusive language refers to a form of communication that recognizes and respects the diversity of individuals, embracing differences in gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, and more. Being the polyglot and language nerd that I am, I appreciate the definition given by the Linguistic Society of America:

"Inclusive language acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities."

It is a conscious effort to ensure that our words and expressions do not marginalize or exclude any person or group. By using inclusive language, we foster a sense of belonging, nurture relationships, and build community (Forsey, 2022).

Why Is Inclusive Language Important?

Inclusive language plays a vital role in shaping our social environment and promoting equality. It acknowledges and respects the diverse experiences and identities of individuals, fostering a sense of dignity and empowerment. When we use inclusive language, we create a safe space that encourages open dialogue, cultivates empathy, and supports the well-being of all members of society.

Identifying Non-Inclusive Language

Unfortunately, many aspects of our language can perpetuate stereotypes, reinforce prejudices, and create barriers. It is imperative that we recognize and address non-inclusive language to promote not only inclusivity, but psychological safe spaces that are trauma-informed. 

Common types of non-inclusive language include gendered language, racial or ethnic stereotypes, ableist language, and heteronormative assumptions. By recognizing these problematic, linguistic patterns, we can actively work towards dismantling them.

Bela's logo of blue lightbulb with a plant growing inside.

Note: This post only discusses inclusive language. It does not go into examples of non-inclusive language.

However, the absence of inclusive language can inflict harm and perpetuate systemic discrimination. It reinforces stereotypes, fosters exclusion, and undermines the self-worth of marginalized groups. It is essential to understand the potential damage non-inclusive language can cause and actively strive for change.

Exploring Language with Disability Rights New York

Earlier this month in my birthday “re-get to know me” post, I mentioned that I am even semi-fluent in a constructed / built language. Languages fascinate me.

Selfie of Bela in a hotel room in Las Vegas.

Bela in Las Vegas in 2022, preparing to go to the drag club. She is a light-skinned Chicana woman with short, blue, curly hair and lots of tattoos. She is smiling whilst taking a selfie in the full-length mirror in her hotel room. She is wearing a short, black dress with lemons, flowers, and a cutout back. This photo was attached to the LinkedIn birthday post mentioned in this article.

But there’s one language I’d like to witness the extinction of: ableist language. 

I recently had the honor of meeting with Grace Combs and Katrin Haldeman of Disability Rights New York (DRNY). We chatted at length on the importance of inclusive language, especially the harm of ableist language. Next month, I have the absolute honor to be speaking on their podcast on the topic of linguistic ableism! To say I am ecstatic is an understatement! 

Back on topic! So, during our pre-production meeting, I was asked about a glossary of ableist terms, as in if I had created one to help folks who need direction and help in unlearning ableist language. While I have some resources I’ve built, I can’t say that I’ve built a glossary. 

But come on… you all know me. Now I MUST build one!  And not just for ableist language but all manners of non-inclusive language!

Introducing the Inclusive Language Glossary

To address the need for folks to unlearn non-inclusive language, I am excited to announce my newest project – the Inclusive Language Glossary. This comprehensive resource aims to provide a centralized hub of inclusive terms, definitions, and explanations. By compiling this glossary, I hope to empower folks to proactively make conscious language choices that foster inclusivity, respect, and understanding.

Contribute to the Inclusive Language Glossary

Building this Inclusive Language Glossary is a collective endeavor and your participation is vital. My students know how much I love to crowdsource resources, so this is no exception!

I invite you to contribute to this project of love, combining our knowledge and experiences to create a valuable resource for everyone. Whether you have expertise in a specific field, personal insights, or examples of inclusive language usage, your contribution matters. Together, we can shape a more inclusive society, one word at a time.

How to Contribute to the Inclusive Language Glossary

Submissions will be accepted indefinitely. You may contribute your resources in any way that is most comfortable to you! This includes:

You may send me information from your own experience or resources from others. Please ensure you let me know where the sources are from. I also may need to reach out to you for additional clarification. Your contributions will be credited and linked to your preferred site or platform, if applicable. 

Even if you’re new to your inclusive learning journey, you can still contribute! You can share this post and the Inclusive Language Glossary (once built) to increase awareness and visibility.

Conclusion

Inclusive language has the power to transform our interactions, relationships, and societal structures. Jenn Chen of Sprout Social said: 

You might not get the inclusive language right every time but proactively doing the work will help you avoid blunders that might turn viral. More importantly, though, is that you’re taking actions to limit harm to others, which is something we should all strive for.

Join me in building the Inclusive Language Glossary and be a part of a movement towards language that embraces and celebrates the diversity of all. Together, let’s forge a future where everyone’s voice is heard and valued!

Share and Support My Work

Want to show your support for my work?  You can:

A heart-shaped stone lays flat on a bed of green moss.  To the left are the words "Much Love!" in a cursive font.

A heart-shaped stone lays flat on a bed of green moss.  To the left are the words “Much Love!” in a cursive font.

Resources

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top