Inclusive Language

We have known for some time that language is a very powerful vehicle with which values, thoughts, and messages are transmitted. We also know that language often carries stereotypes and prejudices which inevitably influence our behavior in daily life and our professional and personal interactions in the workplace.

Communication, therefore, plays a central role in everyday life, as it activates our thoughts and cognitive processes. Language exerts a regulatory and stimulating function on the mental mechanisms that govern the birth of thought and its development which, out of necessity and convenience, often have to be fast and immediate.

This is where the power and transversality of inclusion comes into play, which is also able to positively influence our language, making it able to embrace diversity and break down the unconscious prejudices that often guide our vision of the world, reasoning, and what we express.

Inclusive language adheres to new visions regarding disabilities, vulnerabilities, conditions of difficulty, and diversity as a whole, helping us to overcome obsolete methods and unfortunately conveying stigmatizing and distorted images, capable of bordering on offense at times.

Using inclusive language is therefore not only a more faithful way of representing reality, but also allows you to influence it positively and to cultivate the perception of inclusion experienced by people.

If it is true that the words we choose to use have an impact on our ability to relate to others, collaboration, dialogue, and empathy are all characteristics that inclusive language stimulates and makes its own.

The debate on inclusive language and, consequently, on inclusive writing, is now increasingly present: perhaps the topic is reserved for some “niche” environments, but it is expanding more and more.

The need to use inclusive linguistic forms is emerging from many quarters.

The first example concerns non-binary people, i.e. those who do not identify exclusively with either the male or female gender.

Another example, much more debated, refers to the case of roles and professions, for which the masculine is used even when it is known that this person is of the female gender.

The trend seems to show that, in the languages where the debate is alive, a new inclusive linguistic form is emerging or will emerge. However, this depends not only on socio-cultural circumstances, but also on purely linguistic factors: in some languages (Spanish, Swedish, Esperanto) there are solutions that work quite well phonetically and morphologically, while in others (French, Italian) the search is still in its infancy. The use will decide.

Some areas of activity are still far from finding a balance between intention and language: and unfortunately, it is enough to cast an eye on the communication and advertising sector.

Ad hoc work on leadership in terms of inclusive language is equally important since, the more inclusive leadership is at 360 degrees, the more it encourages and fosters trust and collaboration in teams.

Inclusive language is also an engine for creating a greater sense of belonging towards the organization and within the teams themselves, among people. Inclusive language and cultural intelligence are in fact closely linked: a leader is not inclusive if he does not adapt his communication to the diversity he is faced with and to which he is addressing.

Society changes, and with it language and writing; It is inevitable. The language, then, changes above all for the habits in its use.

Let’s at least make it change for the better.

In a world where individuals are starting to be considered as such, and personalities assert themselves and are determined by their uniqueness, it will be increasingly difficult to find a language so inclusive as to include each of us.

The important thing will undoubtedly be to start from an inclusive attitude, in everyday life, in thoughts and actions. From there, little by little, we will find a way to sensibly integrate it into our language.

Are you using inclusive language?


Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

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  1. Good wake-up call, Aldo.

    I am wondering how it is for you in your native language where even items are gendered? Research of use of language has found that the adjectives for describing these items often become gendered, too, from the subconscious influence hearing a thing described as he or she leaves on the brain.

    I think “they” have become much more used to describe a person of any gender in writing – constantly leaving a bit of confusion in their wake as it is a plural word used for single individuals.

    Part of me wishes a word had been chosen that didn’t create that confusion, but at the same time I cherish the “stop and apply critical thinking” it also signals because it is too easy to hold a story about “when somebody looks like that, they probably like this or that and think this or that”. And we don’t know that. Not about LBTQA+ people and not about heteronormative people, either.
    Perhaps we should all be they, so we would not be seen as cookie cutter blah?

    • Charlotte, thank you for your contribution.
      Inclusive language is the spectrum that encompasses the many identities and infinite sensitivities that inhabit society. This is why we also prefer to speak of inclusive languages, in the plural. Bearing in mind that on the one hand names are the consequence of things, and on the other it is thoughts and words that generate reality.
      It would be nice not to need labels, but it’s precisely words that help us decode reality and make many things, people and identities visible.
      With a little training we can carefully design words and accompany those who read or listen to us, with kindness and respect, towards new vantage points from which to see the world.

  2. Aldo, thank you for this piece, it says volumes to say the least. I will say from my point that I am too old to start having to think of all these changes being placed on the platform of language that requires me to think before I speak. A woman is a woman, and a man is a man, and it is their decision to change who they are, but I am not one to be forced into taking a minute or two when someone of transgender is in front of me to think of what words I use to address them. More likely I will be on the silent end as far as these “Individual Languages”. Don’t get me wrong I am all for letting people be as they are, but there is a line to be drawn

    • I note your kind comment, Lynn.
      I would like not to be misunderstood in the sense that one must not be oneself, always, in all circumstances, with whomever one has relations.
      Instead, I believe that people need to be educated to acquire an inclusive language for it to become a natural fact. The words, by themselves, are not wrong. But the way we put them together and then use them to express our thoughts can turn into a weapon of offense and disrespect. What we name badly gets stuck between the grates of prejudice. Inclusive language helps achieve the goal of participating in the inclusion of as many people as possible in social rights, systems or activities.
      The use of language must be changed over time because expressions that before one did not even have the courage to pronounce, today are used too superficially and instead we must try to describe and create the best reality we can imagine, a world free from violence in all its forms; a world where all life, all identities and experiences are understood as precious.
      Inclusive language is free from words, phrases or tones that reflect prejudiced, stereotyped or discriminatory opinions towards certain groups of people. And this must be taught in schools and, before that, in families.
      Thank you for your contribution which allows me to clarify my thinking.
      Until next time!