Leading with language HEAD
6th Apr 2017
3 Min Read

Leading with language - writing about difficult topics

Russ Norton
Russ Norton
Culture & Change

As internal communications experts, it's our role to set an example to our audience. It's part of our jobs to deal with issues that fall outside people's normal comfort zones.

Subjects such as mental health, gender discrimination and pay equity can be difficult for people to discuss. It's just not something that's commonplace in many businesses.

So when we write about these subjects, it’s essential we use the right terminology. In doing so, we not only set the tone for the organisation and make potentially taboo topics part of the everyday discourse, we also begin to make working life a little better for any individuals who may be impacted by these issues. And as LGBT rights organisation Stonewall say, everyone performs better when they can bring their whole selves to work.

Every 31 March is the annual International Transgender Day of Visibility, a holiday dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide.

We’ve found a number of relevant resources that we wanted to share with our fellow communicators.

1. Writer and lawyer Shon Faye wrote a guide for journalists writing about transgender people:

2. Queer sociolinguist and activist Andy Law published results of a poll on the best ways of labelling gender neutral toilets

3. And Stonewall’s glossary of terms is an extremely helpful guide to appropriate terminology

Here at scarlettabbott, we’re passionate about the power of internal communications to influence how people feel, think and behave. Simple changes to the language you use can have a ripple effect far beyond the walls of your workplace.

Try eliminating any use of ‘his or her’ or ‘he / she’ as a matter of course. For example; ‘the program is relevant to everyone, no matter where that person is in his/her career’ reads just as well (if not better!) when it’s written ‘the program is relevant to everyone, no matter where they are in their career.’

As an internal communications professional, you have the chance to be at the forefront of making a massive change.

Want to put diversity and inclusion further up your agenda? Check out our experience in this space.

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