Inclusion: Inclusive writing II

August 29, 2002: Issue 33

SIM STYLE: More on inclusive writing
“Your kids will thank you.”
What’s wrong with this sentence? Technically, nothing. But SIM style strives for language that doesn’t exclude any reader. One word here does that: “your.”

Not all readers have kids at home, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be interested in the information—they may have grandchildren, nieces and nephews, godchildren, or friends to whom it applies.

The fix is usually easy. Here, simply delete the word “your,” or change it to something more general, such as, “Any kid will thank you.”

The change may seem insignificant. But consciously or otherwise, readers notice patterns. Sprinkle a few “your kids” sentences throughout one magazine, and childless readers—for some reason they can’t quite pinpoint—may begin to feel that magazine doesn’t speak to them personally.

Some other demographics that should send up red flags include race, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, and marital status. Do the words you choose unnecessarily assume all readers are white? Married? Female? Remember, even if 80 percent of readers fall into one category, the remaining 20 percent represent tens of thousands of readers—customers—who don’t.

Inclusive writing doesn’t mean catering to a relatively small portion of your readership at the expense of your target readers. Nor is it a matter of political correctness. It simply means that, where possible, no reader should be excluded from the get-go.

For more information, see Nonsexist Writing section in the SIM Stylebook or Issue 11 and Issue 62.

GRAMMAR: What’s the difference between anxious and eager?
Both refer to anticipation, but anxious implies nervousness or anxiety.
correct: The homeowners, who said any change is a good change, were eager to see their new living room.
correct: The designer, who covered the walls with straw, was anxious about their reaction.

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