Economics/Business

What is inclusive language/in the company/neutral language/importance

Inclusive language is a communication tool , textual or oral, which is structurally concerned with not excluding or reducing any group of people through vocabulary adaptations, without changing the language and its rules. Its objective is to bring representativeness and identification through the spoken or written approach. 

Building diversity and inclusion has become one of the greatest goals of the 21st century. Because of this, this trend of inclusive language is entering all sectors of society and has gained priority and a high value in the corporate world. 

But to promote diversity and inclusion in companies, the work needs to focus on changing habits and new mindsets , that is, simple everyday actions.

Today, companies’ internal and external communication is the basis for their growth and stability. 

More than that, language is an instrument that reproduces values ​​and beliefs, often unconsciously , influencing inclusive or socially oppressive behaviors and thoughts. 

Therefore, in order to expand the companies’ internal diversity policies, inclusive language became a key element for the implementation of the proposed inclusion.

In this article, you will learn what inclusive language is, how to use it in your business, as well as its advantages and importance for employees.

What is inclusive language

Quite simply, it is a communication tool , textual or oral, which is structurally concerned with not excluding or reducing any group of people through vocabulary adaptations, without changing the language and its rules. 

In other words, it is a language that aggregates rather than excludes and attacks and, thus, encompasses all types of narratives without changing the Portuguese language and its grammar. 

Even the inclusive language aims to bring representation and identification through the spoken or written approach. 

In this way, she makes references to all the people who are in the company, individually and collectively. This materializes the social inclusion, in the organizational environment, of all groups in society.

In the case of the Portuguese language, it is even more important to adopt the inclusive language, since, since the 1960s, the male gender came to be considered the neutral gender of the language.

In this way, Portuguese was built and is still built in everyday life with strong gender marks . Therefore, in order not to continue these exclusionary customs and guarantee the full inclusion of an employee in the company, care must be taken with an inclusive language.

Difference between inclusive language and neutral language

Inclusive language and neutral language are different approaches to how language can be used to break the cycle of social exclusion and inequality. 

But despite these differences, the practices are complementary, therefore, it is recommended that they be adopted side by side with the companies’ diversity policy .

The inclusive language, as shown above, presents adaptation in the speeches and texts, in order to include all collaborators, without changing the language and its grammatical rules. 

Already the language neutral is based on the modification or creation of new words, so that the linguistic tradition is completely broken.

Neither better nor worse are languages ​​that use different strategies, adaptation or transformation, to reach the same result: full inclusion.

How important is it in companies

Language, in the general scope of society, has an individual and collective impact , which institutionally transforms or maintains systems. 

Diversity has been one of the main stages of social change in recent times, so if the company does not keep up with these social advances, the work environment will be increasingly hostile.

With this, your business will move away from the market’s focus : which are companies that have good conduct in relation to society, the environment and governance.

Still, we must remember that the human capital is a structural basis of any company , therefore, integration, welfare and identification of the employee are important for a good working environment and productivity.

Within this logic, we can think of several benefits of using inclusive language in companies, both for businesses and for employees. 

Among them, we can mention:

  • more efficient internal and external communication;
  • reduction of conflicts in the team;
  • an increase in the sense of belonging and identity, which reduces the company’s turnover rate;
  • guarantee of an employer branding, as the employee feels included and belonging to that brand;
  • the company fulfills its social and inclusive role, presenting important social behaviors for the market ( ESG );
  • the company shows itself as a place of support and base for the employee, bringing more loyalty and reliability;
  • improvement of the company’s image in the market;
  • coherence with the social transformations of the present and reaffirmation of the company’s role in this transformation towards an inclusive world;
  • stand out with the public: whether they are customers or potential collaborators;
  • the company becomes a source of denunciation and reflection on social problems such as sexism, gender intolerance and racism;
  • appreciation, respect and acceptance of diversity in a horizontal way and without privileges.

Types and how to apply

There are a multitude of ways and combinations to use inclusive language in the work routine. 

As it is a complex language, Portuguese does not lack options for more inclusive adaptations. 

But it is possible to cite some types of inclusive language that make this complex exercise more concrete: 

  • non-sexist language (not excluding different types of gender);
  • non-violent communication (communication with empathy);
  • anti-racist and anti-capacitative language (language that avoids the use of racist expressions or that prejudge people’s abilities).

Within these languages, some strategies help us to apply these types:

  • focus on using collectives and generic words to address a group of people. Eg using “youth” instead of “young people” and “political class” instead of “politicians” etc. (inclusive, non-sexist language);
  • worry about the pronoun to address and refer to someone;
  • be careful with sexist adjectives and opt for neutral and general expressions;
  • do not use adjectives or words that convey stereotyped social conventions. 

Care with inclusive language

Despite being a very simple concept, inclusive language is a complex and very sensitive exercise, as it works with people’s identity.

For this reason, the implementation of inclusive language in companies can be challenging. 

But that’s no reason not to apply it, but to pay attention to some details:

  • although it is recommended to use generic and neutral expressions, care must be taken not to reduce identities and simplify the complexities of people. Remember to always consider intersectionality and value the individual.
  • at first, it may seem uncomfortable to implement changes in people’s vocabulary, so it is important to deepen your collaborators’ understanding of the link between language and power and culture.
  • be careful with the “speaking place” , even with the use of inclusive language, it is always important to pay attention to who is speaking and what is their “social place”. This recognition is essential to value the individualities of employees and respect their stories and struggles.
  • new communication problems can arise, for example, a greater difficulty for people with visual impairments to understand the inclusive written language and, often, communication will become longer and repetitive. For these issues, it is important to be aware of individual needs, be open to feedback from employees and remember that language is plastic and completely adaptable to new demands.

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