Why words matter: writing that promotes inclusion

The words you speak become the house you live in

Everyone has the right to information that meets their needs and treats them with fairness and respect.

Sometimes when describing people, inaccurate or offensive terms can be unintentionally used. Making sure you use the right terms isn’t just about being ‘politically correct’. Using lazy language can make people feel upset, excluded and misunderstood. It can also deepen divisions and create an ‘us versus them’ environment in the wider community.

As an organisation, living up to your values is critical. One of the best ways you can embed respect is to use fair and inclusive language in your communications.

In the words of Iranian poet Hafiz, “The words you speak become the house you live in”.

Let’s build a house on the write foundations.

Inclusive communications resources

Getting it right when it comes to language isn’t always easy. Luckily there are a number of great resources to get you started.

The ‘Guide to Disability Reporting’ by People with Disability Australia is an excellent resource for checking your language when talking about people with disability. As the guide says in its introduction:

“Your use of language when referring to or talking about people with disability has an impact on the way people with disability feel and the way they are perceived by other people in society. It is important that you are aware of the meaning behind the words you use when talking to, referring to or working with people with disability. Some terms and language can be a barrier to full participation in society and also can mean people with disability feel hurt and excluded.”

The Mindframe Media Guidelines are another great tool that can support you to talk about mental illness and suicide with sensitivity and respect. Developed in partnership by mental health professionals and the media, the Mindframe guidelines aim to change attitudes and perceptions of mental illness and suicide.

The GLAAD Media Reference Guide provides advice on language, content and reporting about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. This guide aims to support fair, accurate and respectful LGBTQ stories.

The ABC’s Indigenous Content Guidelines, while intended for ABC content making, is another useful resource for organisations. These guidelines share advice on language, naming and references, as well as other important cultural traditions and considerations.

Additional resources

Do you have any guides or tips you can recommend? Share your advice in the comments section below.

Seeking specialised support?

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Making sure people have access to information that is accessible and inclusive is a true passion of mine; and a passion I’d love to share with your organisation.

Learn more about Pen For Purpose, the copywriting, editing and content marketing services available to you, or simply get in touch to talk about your inclusive communications needs.