Write more inclusively: 7 examples of inclusive language
So you want to write more inclusively? Great! That means more people will feel welcome when they read your content, and you won’t accidentally exclude them. But if that’s not enough reason, just think how many more people will engage with your content if you involve them and make your content relatable to them! So, what does inclusive language look like? We’re here to give you some examples.
Before we dive into the inclusive language examples, it’s good to know that there are roughly seven categories to pay attention to. They are: age, appearance, race, culture and ethnicity, disability and neurodiversity, gender, socioeconomic status, and lastly sexual and romantic orientation (yes, race, culture and ethnicity is one category). You can click on every category to learn more about it.
In this post, we’ll give examples of every category.
Inclusive language example: age
This category might come as a surprise to you, but ageism is a real problem. But what is it exactly? To quote the World Health Organization (WHO), ageism “refers to the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age.”
Let’s look at an example of non-inclusive writing first. We’ve bolded the non-inclusive word:
If you’re visiting a European city, public transport is usually the easiest way to get around. Many cities also offer discounts on public transport tickets for seniors, students, and children. Small children can even often travel for free!
The bolded word could be potentially harmful to older adults unless they actually use these words to refer to themselves. It can evoke stereotypes and portray older adults as “other”. Here’s what you could do to write more inclusively:
If you’re visiting a European city, public transport is usually the easiest way to get around. Many cities also offer discounts on public transport tickets for older people, students, and children. Small children can even often travel for free!
As you can see, a small change to the text can already make a difference. And it isn’t that much of an effort to make the text relatable to a larger group of people.
Inclusive language example: appearance
You probably know the famous saying: don’t judge a book by its cover. Whatever a person looks like, you shouldn’t judge them based on their appearance. Especially when that judgment is based on prejudices.
Here’s an example of non-inclusive writing. We’ve bolded the non-inclusive word:
This is my new favorite sustainable clothing brand. The clothes are beautiful and comfortable, and they come in so many different sizes. You can also see all the clothes modeled by overweight models on the website. It is great to see more brands take size inclusivity seriously.
There’s something called an ‘anti-fat bias‘, also known as fatphobia. This occurs when people are judged or mistreated for having a weight higher than what is perceived as “standard”. To avoid reinforcing this bias, it’s good to pay attention to your language when talking about people’s weight. In general, avoid commenting on people’s weight unless it’s relevant to the topic. If it is relevant, avoid using “overweight” unless you are referring to someone who prefers that term to describe their appearance. This term can be stigmatizing by implying that there is a ‘correct’ weight to be.
So let’s look at the same text but with an inclusive word:
This is my new favorite sustainable clothing brand. The clothes are beautiful and comfortable, and they come in so many different sizes. You can also see all the clothes modeled by higher-weight models on the website. It is great to see more brands take size inclusivity seriously.
Inclusive language example: race, culture, and ethnicity
When you think about inclusive language, this category is probably top of mind. And while the topic has gained popularity over the years, it’s always good to be extra mindful of your language. You don’t want to maintain a bias toward people based on their race, ethnicity, country of origin, or culture.
Let’s look at an example of non-inclusive writing. We’ve bolded the non-inclusive word:
If you want to travel around East Asia, we only have one thing to say: do it! It’s truly an amazing experience. We always recommend people to visit China, because it’s a stunning region. There are lots of things to learn from Oriental culture, and the food is amazing!
You might not realize it, but a word like ‘oriental’ is othering towards Asian people. What’s othering? In the simplest terms, it’s pointing a finger at someone and saying you are different. Which we obviously want to prevent.
Here’s what you could write instead:
If you want to travel around East Asia, we only have one thing to say: do it! It’s truly an amazing experience. We always recommend people to visit China, because it’s a stunning region. There are lots of things to learn from Chinese culture, and the food is amazing!
Before we move on to the next category, let’s do one more example. We’ve bolded the non-inclusive word:
Want to improve your public speaking skills? According to most public speaking gurus, the only way to get better at it is to practice as much as you can. Don’t worry, you don’t have to present in front of a huge crowd right away! Start small and build your way up as you gain confidence.
Using the word guru for an expert on something might seem harmless, but it’s actually disrespectful to people from the culture the term originated from. In many Hindu and Buddhist religions, a guru refers to a spiritual guide or leader who is held in high esteem and throwing around the term casually diminishes the importance of the title and its origins.
We suggest using an alternative, for example:
Want to improve your public speaking skills? According to most public speaking experts, the only way to get better at it is to practice as much as you can. Don’t worry, you don’t have to present in front of a huge crowd right away! Start small and build your way up as you gain confidence.
Inclusive language example: disability and neurodiversity
Telling a wheelchair user to ‘walk it off’ can be very insensitive. But that’s exactly what you do when you don’t take disability and neurodiversity into account when writing. And be aware that some disabilities aren’t always visible!
First, the non-inclusive example. We’ve bolded the non-inclusive words:
The artist who drew this picture is so talented, it’s crazy. She is also an activist who tries to make the world a more inclusive place for the disabled. I want more people to know about her and her amazing work!
Using words like ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ has become pretty common in our society. But it can minimize or trivialize the experiences of people who have a particular condition or symptom. So take care to avoid these types of words.
Let’s look at what you should write instead:
The artist who drew this picture is so talented, it’s unbelievable. She is also an activist who tries to make the world a more inclusive place for people with disabilities. I want more people to know about her and her amazing work!
Do note that neurodiverse people and disabled people may prefer different approaches to how they want to be described. There are generally two: person-first language (PFL), and identity-first language (IFL). It’s the difference between ‘person with a disability’ or ‘disabled person’. You can learn more about PFL and IFL on our help page. And don’t hesitate to ask people what they prefer!
Inclusive language example: gender
When we talk about writing inclusively, this also means looking out for gendered words. ‘Man-hours’ is a very obvious example, as is simply using ‘he/him’ to refer to people in general. We also call the latter male bias.
Let’s look at a non-inclusive example. We’ve bolded the non-inclusive words:
If you’re looking for your next read, look no further. We’ve got an awesome list of books that both men and women will love. These titles are truly some of mankind’s best novels.
A great thing to remember is that neither gender nor sex is inherently binary. There are more gender identities than men and women, such as genderfluid and non-binary people. In addition, there are also people with no gender, such as agender and some non-binary people.
Here’s the same text, but written inclusively:
If you’re looking for your next read, look no further. We’ve got an awesome list of books that everyone will love. These titles are truly some of humanity’s best novels.
Inclusive language example: socioeconomic status
When you write about topics that center around income, education, occupation, and social class, you might want to pay extra attention to what words you use. You don’t want to alienate or harm parts of your audience by being non-inclusive. The key is to try and be as specific as possible.
Here’s a non-inclusive example. We’ve bolded the non-inclusive words:
Hubert was a truly remarkable man. He dedicated his life to helping others. As an ex-offender, he knew how bad life could get. That’s why he frequently organized fundraisers for the poor and homeless. In addition, he volunteered at soup kitchens and provided care packages for illegal immigrants.
As we said, when writing about income or housing, try to be as specific as possible. Don’t overgeneralize. As for the term ‘illegal immigrants’, it’s not only harmful but also inaccurate. And finally, don’t reduce people to their experiences with the criminal justice system. That’s dehumanizing.
Let’s look at the same text but with inclusive words:
Hubert was a truly remarkable man. He dedicated his life to helping others. As a person with felony convictions, he knew how bad life could get. That’s why he frequently organized fundraisers for individuals with low income and people who are homeless. In addition, he volunteered at soup kitchens and provided care packages for undocumented people.
Inclusive language example: sexual and romantic orientation
Before we dive into the example, let’s quickly get on the same page. Sexual orientation is who you experience sexual attraction to, and romantic orientation is who you feel romantically attracted to. It’s also important to keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable with certain labels. Some people describe themselves as bisexual, while others might prefer queer or simply no label at all.
Here’s an example with non-inclusive words. We’ve bolded what is not inclusive:
When we visited Amsterdam, we had no idea it was Pride Amsterdam. There was a canal parade that we attended, which was really awesome. There were rainbows everywhere. And it was great to see so many homosexuals and lesbians celebrating who they are. We even got to dance and sing along. It was fun!
First things first: Don’t use the word homosexual. It’s often considered derogatory because of its clinical associations. Next, you should be careful with assumptions. Assuming everyone at pride is gay or a lesbian is an overgeneralization, and probably wrong. You’d be excluding a lot of other sexual and romantic identities. That’s why it might be better to use descriptions instead of labels, unless someone tells you what label they prefer of course.
Here’s one way of writing the previous text more inclusively. We’ve bolded the changes we made:
When we visited Amsterdam, we had no idea it was Pride Amsterdam. There was a canal parade that we attended, which was really awesome. There were rainbows everywhere. And it was great to see so many gay people, lesbians and other people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community celebrating who they are. We even got to dance and sing along. It was fun!
Make it easier for yourself
Now that we’ve gone over every category, you might feel a little overwhelmed. And we get it. It’s a lot to remember all at once. That’s why we’ve introduced the inclusive language analysis in Yoast SEO. How does it work? Simply write your text, and the analysis feature will assess your post. You’ll get valuable feedback to help you improve your content, so your posts and pages will appeal to a wider audience. Meaning: You don’t have to Google everything!
Don’t be afraid to ask
Good job, you! By reading this post, you’ve taken the first step into writing more inclusively. And while you might not get it right straight away, it’s good that you’re trying. So keep doing that! And don’t be afraid to ask people about their identities, and learn from them. Because inclusive language is here to stay.
Read more: Does inclusive language help you rank? »
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4 Responses to Write more inclusively: 7 examples of inclusive language
In the appearance paragraph, I wouldn’t even use the sentence you used. “Both people who have a higher weight and a lower weight came to enjoy the sun at this beach”. It still says, to me anyway, that weight is not inclusive. Possibly, you could say, “Anyone can come and enjoy the beach”. And why do you just use “fat-bias” as an example? There are many, many people who are extremely small due to illness, bulimia or other conditions who may be self-conscious as well. Weight-bias could have been a better choice of words.
Overweight people have been shunned and ridicule since the year of the flood. We’re so sensitive to other feelings, but no one is sensitive to “fat” individuals. I know I’m ranting, but when I read this I was offended. For me, it was the final straw. PS: I used to be overweight.
Hi Eydie, thank you for your comment and sorry that we offended you with this example. We had another critical look at it and we can see it wasn’t the best choice. We changed it to a different example. I also want to let you know we forwarded your feedback to the team who works on the analysis.
We consciously centered fat bias because fatphobic oppression is systemic (can lead to major societal disadvantages, affect access to basic needs). We definitely agree though that any body shaming (including skinny-shaming) is extremely harmful, and pointing out peoples’ appearance should be avoided in general unless it is unavoidably relevant. This source explains our reasoning more
I think this is very important. I mean to write inclusively! Because when we do we actually write from our hearts. Being inclusive actually opens your heart and it can have the same effect on the reader. Inclusivity also means respect for others – in contrast to belittle people!
The world really needs more inclusivity!
Thanks for a great article!