On the 25th of May, 2020, an unarmed black man named George Floyd was killed by a white police officer in America. Since that day, the world has been taken into a new form of revolution. The media is dominated by mentions of protests, riots, injustice and the fight for equality, the internet is decorated with poignant black squares and the hashtag #blacklivesmatter has heralded a campaign spanning across society. Change is happening, and it’s important for your business and your presence to reflect it.
However, before I share my advice, it’s equally important for me to state that simply writing diverse and minority-friendly copy is only a small fragment of the work required for a truly inclusive business model. True diversity and equality requires a much deeper look into your fundamental business practices, the messages you deliver, the treatment of staff and contractors and suppliers. Copywriting is, very literally, only skin deep and there is always more that can be done to improve on the ethics of your business.
In addition, if your justification for writing more inclusive copy is simply to ‘avoid the mob’ of the internet, ‘keep up with the times’ or to virtue signal your way into popularity, then unfortunately this is not the right article for you. You should be adapting your copy to reflect the work carried out within your business to create a welcoming environment for everyone — regardless of skin colour, religion, sexual orientation, gender, body shape or disability. You should be educating yourself on the right way to conduct business that is inclusive, equal and honest, teaching yourself how to prevent the inbuilt microaggressions of your industry from impacting your teams, and using your digital presence to normalise diversity in every field of business.
So what is inclusive, and non-inclusive, copy?
Put simply, ‘inclusive copy’ is any copy that lacks bias, discrimination or the exclusivity of minority groups and marginalised communities. Inclusive copy speaks in a language of equality and accessibility and invites all readers to feel noticed and welcome in the text.
Unfortunately, even in these times of progression and modernity and change, non-inclusive copy is still used heavily throughout digital platforms — from company websites and terms and conditions to instruction manuals and blog posts. Unconscious generalisations are made through the use of pronouns, formats, language and imagery — with the majority of writers assuming the demographics of their audience and creating copy specifically for that group.
For instance, you might find non-inclusive examples in copy which states ‘the client might choose him for a different task.’ ‘All girls will know…’ ‘Grab your man for this next tip…’
The copy above assumes that the reader is heterosexual, perhaps. A cis woman? A cis man? As a reader who might be none of those things, it can be offputting and upsetting to be marginalised by it, particularly if you had hoped the copy would be relevant for you. Makeup advice is too often written for those with white skin, fashion advice is too often written for slim figures, exercise advice is too often written for able bodies, and dating advice is too often written for cis-heterosexual couples.
So what should the rest of the population do? The ones who aren’t heterosexual, who don’t identify as a man or a woman, who don’t have white skin or a slim figure or an able body? Which copy should they be reading?
How to integrate inclusive copy into your marketing
There are many ways you can start to integrate more inclusive language into your business copy and marketing. For some businesses, it can be as easy as removing any unnecessary pronouns from their website and perhaps changing up a few images. For other businesses, however, it can require a much larger overhaul.
Here are just a few ways you can make your business copy more inclusive:
- Try to use gender neutral pronouns where required
- Pay attention to any collaqualisms used in your writing, and examine them from a different perspective than your own. Ask yourself ‘do they still apply?’
- Use simple, straightforward descriptions
- Avoid using metaphors regarding mental health i.e. ‘going psycho’ ‘going schizo’
- Focus on more diverse imagery
- Focus on more diverse testimonials
- Avoid referencing religion-specific metaphors where possible i.e. Christmas, Easter
- Include more diverse quotes and voices in your copy — i.e. references speakers and sources from different cultures
- Don’t use any stereotypes — i.e. men like football, women like shopping
- Avoid using any gender-specific job titles, when others are available i.e. ‘postman’ ‘fireman’ ‘binman’ ‘dinner lady’ ‘lollipop lady’
- Avoid using restrictive assumptions — i.e. men don’t wear makeup, disabled people don’t have sex, women aren’t interested in technology, older people are politically conservative, gay men are all feminine
There are so many ways to factor diversity into your content marketing and copywriting strategy. But one of the best ways to approach your inclusive copy is to take a look at the copy you already have, and imagine reading it from someone else’s perspective. Someone of a different race, of a different gender, of a different sexual orientation. Would the copy you’re writing include them, or exclude them? Does the language you’ve used make them feel welcome or alienated?
Diversity, equality and inclusivity are not impossible goals. They simply require change, even in the smallest of places. So get writing.
If you have any questions about inclusive copy, or you would like to know more about my copywriting services, please drop me a message at email@example.com.
I’ve also included some links to various organisations working together to make this change happen, who could really use some support.