Your copy is how you, and your brand, talk directly to your audience. It’s an opportunity to be creative, to build a community, and to promote yourself in your own words.
This point sounds obvious, but here goes: to maximise your reach, you need to keep your language inclusive. That means to everyone – all the people who could be in your target audience.
We wrote about this in our article championing neurodiversity-friendly graphic design. Read here if you’re interested! Excluding potential customers from reaching your brand can be harmful. So, here are our top tips for keeping copy accessible.
Get rid of gendered language
Do you really mean ‘fireman’, or do you mean ‘fireperson’?
It can be tricky to rewire your brain to stop making assumptions. For instance, if you’ve been raised by a mum and a dad, it’s second nature to use your own experience as a base. But, not everyone in your audience will have had the same experience as you. Maybe, instead of saying ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, ‘parent’ or ‘guardian’ would work the same.
If you’re talking about a romantic partner, avoid ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’, and stick with ‘partner’.
If you’re talking about a theoretical person, use ‘they’ as a gender neutral pronoun rather than saying ‘he’ or ‘she’.
And, if you’re describing a person, try not to use any gendered stereotypes.
Avoid mental health & ability terms
Is it ‘OCD’, or cleanliness?
Using terms that make light of mental health conditions or disabilities are exclusive, and can be offensive.
Avoid words such as ‘crazy’, ‘insane’, or ‘dumb’.
If you’re writing about disability, avoid words such as ‘lame’, ‘blind’ (as in ‘blindspot’), or ‘deaf’ (as in ‘fell on deaf ears’).
Additionally, try to keep the person first – ‘a person with Crohns’, ‘someone with ADHD’.*
*N.B. This is usually down to personal preference, but most prefer person-first language. Some, like autistic people, tend to prefer the opposite. It’s always best to do your research, and use tools and resources made by the disabled people you’re referring to.
Keep it clear
Not everyone in your audience will have the same reading ability, comprehension skills, or English language fluency.
To make your language as accessible as possible, break up long-form copy into headings. It shouldn’t look like a wall of text, and should be easily scannable.
Use short sentences to keep copy concise, and don’t use any words that are too complex. This could be alienating.
Avoid jargon, and overly technical terms (unless there’s an explanation included).
In any effective copywriting, all words should be necessary, and serve a purpose. This stands true for inclusive language.
Your language will be even more powerful when everyone can access it.
By following these tips, we’re sure that your language will reach everyone in your audience.
And, if you need a hand with making your copy more inclusive, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to help!