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Why Inclusive Language Matters and How to Implement it on Your Website

SEO (search engine optimisation) is probably important to you if you own a blog or a business. You also know that Google values user experience. But there is one aspect of user experience that is often overlooked: inclusive language.

But why should you care?

Inclusive content is good for your users and your SEO. But if you use language that is not inclusive, you can exclude people and reinforce systematic biases. In short, your users value inclusive language, but the big question is: does Google care?

What is inclusive language?

Before we dive deeper into the topic, let’s look at what inclusive language means. Inclusive language strives to use words that do not express or imply insults or exclusions towards marginalised groups. For example, using a racist or misogynistic swear word.

Like accessibility, inclusive language makes everyone welcome on your website. If you use non-inclusive words, you are likely to exclude parts of your audience. And in the worst-case scenario is that you may even offend people. 

How can inclusive language affect your position?

As you know, the goal of Google and other search engines is to give people the best result for their queries. It’s usually not good if users quickly leave your website and don’t return, e.g if they feel excluded by your content.

Why is this bad? Well, Google sees these patterns of behaviour and uses them to work out how people experience your website. If a number of people quickly leave your website, then Google may think they haven’t found what they’re looking for. This means that your website is not useful for the query/keyword you want to rank for. This will then have a negative impact on your ranking.

Using inclusive language is not just about avoiding derogatory terms or slurs, it’s also about using gender-neutral language, avoiding stereotypes and biases, and considering the perspectives and experiences of underrepresented groups. By making a conscious effort to use inclusive language, you can create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all users, which can ultimately lead to increased engagement and improved SEO.

Ableism refers to discrimination and bias against individuals with disabilities, often stemming from the assumption that a person’s typical abilities are superior. One manifestation of ableism is the use of derogatory and discriminatory language, such as terms like “crazy,” “insane,” “blind,” “crippled,” “mute,” and others. These words reveal unconscious biases and perpetuate the notion that individuals with disabilities are inferior.

To communicate inclusively and respectfully, it is important to choose an appropriate alternative language. For example:

  • Instead of using terms like “crazy” or “insane,” use “person with a mental illness” or “person with a cognitive impairment.”
  • Instead of “blind,” use “person with visual impairment.”
  • Instead of “crippled,” use “person with mobility impairment” or “person with a disability.”
  • Instead of “dumb,” use “person who is deaf” or “person with a speech impairment.”

It is important to be aware of the language we use and ensure that it is inclusive and respectful, in order to support the equality and dignity of all individuals. Using inclusive language can also be beneficial in terms of accessibility. Inclusive language can make a website more welcoming to a diverse audience, avoiding exclusion or offence.

Always use gender-neutral language where appropriate. Gender-specific language refers to language that has a preference for a particular gender and often uses the word “man” as a universal term. To be mindful of what is appropriate and inclusive, you can use alternatives to gendered language.

Recommended:

  • Use “people in the team” instead of “the team.”
  • Use “team member” instead of “the man.”
  • Use “police officer” instead of “policemen/policewomen.”
  • Use “a doctor” instead of “a doctor.”
  • Use “teaching staff” instead of “teachers.”

Not recommended:

  • Use “girl” as a term for an adult woman.
  • Use “boy” as a designation for an adult male.
  • Use “housewife” as a job title for a woman who mainly manages the household.
  • Use “craftsman” as a designation for a man who carries out manual work. Use “craftsperson” or “skilled worker” instead.
  • Use “nurse” as a designation for a woman who works in nursing, better “nursing professional”

Inclusive language is an important aspect of creating an equitable and welcoming environment for all people, regardless of their backgrounds or identities. By using inclusive language, we can work to dismantle systems of oppression and build a more just society.

According to Hewitt, vice president for institutional equity at Duke University, inclusive language encompasses words and phrases that treat everyone equally and create a sense of belonging. Inclusive language respects people of different genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, disabilities, and other identities.

“Inclusive language encompasses words and phrases that treat everyone equally and create a sense of belonging, said Hewitt, vice president for institutional equity at Duke. Inclusive language respects people of different genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, disabilities and other identities.”

Source: https://today.duke.edu/2021/05/qa-why-inclusive-language-matters

However, inclusive language is more than just avoiding the use of a few antiquated or offensive terms and phrases. It is about embracing communication that acknowledges the power differentials and dynamics of our society and their negative effects. Inclusive language shows appreciation for the diversity everyone brings to the table and helps to create a more equitable and respectful environment for everyone.

“Inclusive language is more than just avoiding the use of a few antiquated or offensive terms and phrases. It is about embracing communication that acknowledges the power differentials and dynamics of our society and their deleterious effects. It is about showing appreciation for the diversity everyone brings to the table.”

Source: https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psn/2022/09/inclusive-language

One way to implement inclusive language is by listing your pronouns (e.g., she/her, he/him, they/them) in your email signature, LinkedIn profile, and other public-facing communications. This sends a clear message that your business is a welcoming place for everyone, regardless of their pronouns. Additionally, it is also important to use nonprescriptive language around faith and belief systems. For instance, sending positive thoughts is usually a better option than keeping you in our prayers.

“Consider listing your pronouns (e.g., she/her, he/him, they/them) in your email signature, LinkedIn profile, and other public-facing communications. Try using nonprescriptive language around faith and belief systems. Sending positive thoughts is usually a better option than keeping you in our prayers.”

Source: https://www.crowleywebb.com/news/why-inclusive-language-matters/

Google prefers inclusive language

We’re not alone in believing that inclusive language is important. Let’s take a look at what Google says. On their website they have this statement, “Everyone should be able to use and enjoy the web. We are committed to making that a reality.” In other words, Google cares about its users. 

By making sure your website is accessible to everyone, you are one step ahead of your competition. It also sends a message to your audience that you value them. This can lead to great word of mouth, as you are one of the few who actually do something about it. Use inclusive language and show your audience that you value them and that everyone is welcome.

Conclusion:

Inclusive language is an important aspect of user experience and SEO. By creating inclusive content you can make sure that your website is accessible to everyone and that your users feel welcome and valued. Don’t forget that Google cares about user experience, which means, that if you use inclusive language it can also benefit your SEO. It may take effort, but taking steps towards inclusivity is an important and valuable decision.

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