“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”
– Rita Mae Brown


Language that avoids words, phrases, tones and biases that discriminate against groups of people based on race, gender, age, socioeconomic status, disability and religion among many others. 


Our thoughts are what get reflected in our words and actions. Our implicit biases have a great impact on our communication style, that not just includes our words, but the tone and context of our conversations. Inclusive language promotes respectful relationships and instills a sense of belonging for all. This also has a positive influence in employee performance in the workplace, and is a stepping stone to creativity and innovation.


Incorporating inclusive language in our workplace, starts from working on these changes in our own personal network. While establishing practices and policies for inclusive language may depend on the organizational maturity, small incremental steps to improve and change individual attitudes is quite powerful. 

Move from Intentions to Actions

During the ACT: Inclusive Language program in November and December 2020, participants contributed to a crowd-sourced glossary of oppressive language, including information about historical context and inclusive alternative language. That information is displayed below for public use. You can suggest terms here




Act by educating yourself as well as your colleagues or people in your trust network about  discriminatory terms, their history and inclusive terminology. This process may require continuous dialogue and sharing of resources as well as a lessons learned session to help us as individuals understand our own personal biases or lack thereof. We can also learn to use emojis respectfully. As noted in this article, emojis are a part of our language, especially as we use Slack, Teams or other technology tools to communicate while working remotely. Over the years emojis have been diversified, but we need to learn to use them responsibly. 

Act by reviewing your existing lexicon used in internal and external communications. Reach out, listen and learn to identify where opportunities for improvement exist and how they can be implemented. Create an action plan to implement this by formulating SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. This will help you to start somewhere, even if it’s a slow journey.

Individuals leading teams can have discussions within their groups to make their teams more aware of their commitment to incorporating an inclusive language framework. This will help individuals be accountable to one another by using inclusive language in their internal communication channels. Eventually, they would want to continue this practice while communicating with their colleagues outside of their own unit as well. Acting to ensure that the workplace uses more inclusive language involves change in individual attitudes, team or unit level practices and organizational policies.

Enact change by actively working on an action plan to create or update inclusive language guidelines at your unit or institution. While considering policy changes, make sure you are aware of and understand the policy process. This will allow you to also be able to analyze your organization’s level of maturity and internal advocacy for the cause. Build a diverse group of individuals who can make this change happen, or recommend someone who you think will be able to make a valuable contribution to support an existing team. Research and build on resources that are readily available, thus saving some time and effort for your team. Build a reporting process by working with internal partners such as Chief Diversity Officers or the Office of Equity and Inclusion, as well as with external partners and vendors. Communicate the action plan, and any relevant policy changes as widely as possible.