Language is a powerful tool for creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, however we all know how it feels when words make us feel left out or devalued. How a person sees themselves and the terminology and language they feel comfortable with can be very personal.
We understand that people might find these conversations uncomfortable or be worried about getting things wrong, but language creates a common understanding and we should not be put off talking about inclusion and learning about how people identify and their lived experiences. When we’re talking to people, we should be open and honest in finding the language they feel comfortable with.
This short guide is by no means exhaustive or definitive. Language is always changing, and, in many instances, there will not be a single “right” way, there are no real rules as everyone is an individual but hopefully this will provide some thoughts and tips on using inclusive language.
The IWG* would also love to hear your feedback and thoughts around this topic of inclusive language and whilst we are focussing here on six characteristics, the issue of the language used covers all groups. If you would find it useful to explore this topic with other characteristics, please let us know. You can get in touch by emailing
What if I get it Wrong?
If you are making the effort to use respectful language and be inclusive, then it’s OK to make mistakes along your journey. When we are learning, we get things wrong sometimes. If this happens, apologise, learn from your mistake and move on without getting defensive – you can keep trying and do better next time.
Microsoft Word built in tools
Another great tool for inclusive language that you may find helpful to use is the built-in inclusive language tools available on Microsoft Word. This feature enables written documents to be checked for inclusive language
These tools are built into the proof-reading system and will highlight words or sentences with unconscious bias or statements that are not inclusive the same way it highlights grammatical and spelling improvements. For example, “I really think that sustainability is the biggest priority for mankind” would be highlighted and give you the option to change to humankind.
To start using this tool in Word go to:
File > Options > Proof reading > When correcting spelling and grammar in Word > Settings
Then scroll down and enable the tick boxes under inclusiveness.
For more support with technology click or to connect with one of our Digital Champions, click .
*Thanks to the Inclusion Working Group at Bury Council for the article.
Click below for more information on each of the 6 language topics we're looking at: