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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Choose respect

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Choose respect

Jen GilbertQ. How can I effectively communicate about inclusion in the workplace?  

A. Using inclusive language in the workplace is one way to support your efforts to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive business.  

Words are powerful. They have the power to not only describe our world—but also define it. One of the coolest things about English is its evolution. The English language is constantly changing, and just because we’ve said something one way for hundreds of years does not mean we must continue to do so.  

When we choose to use inclusive language, we show people respect. Inclusive language is not about being politically correct or pandering to sensitivities—it's about respect.  

Here are a few ways you can use more inclusive language in the workplace: 

You can be respectful of someone’s gender identity and use their preferred pronouns. (Don’t know their preferred pronouns? Just ask!) 

You can stop using gendered language, in general, especially when referring to large groups. For example, you could say, “Welcome, friends,” instead of “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.” 

You can stop appropriating words from another culture and using them in casual ways and, therefore, downplaying their significance. Examples include “pow wow” or “spirit animal” when referring to anything other than Native American cultural traditions.  

You can stop using words about disabilities or mental illnesses to describe others in negative ways. Examples include “spaz” or “bipolar.”  

Another easy change you can make is to use “holidays” in December instead of “Christmas.” Once again, this choice is about respect. It acknowledges that not everyone affiliated with your workplace celebrates Christmas and includes those who do not. Wishing people Merry Christmas will likely not offend those who don’t celebrate—it simply won’t include them. As someone who celebrates Hanukkah in December, I personally appreciate being included in holiday greetings.  

Like all your DEI work, using inclusive language takes practice. You will make mistakes, but that’s OK. 

Jen Gilbert is a senior copywriter at Moxie (a division of VGM Group) and a leader of VGM Group’s DEI Committee. You can reach her at


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