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Inclusive language in social networks

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What is inclusive language?

Inclusive language is a way of speaking that avoids, whenever it is not necessary, specifying the gender of words in order to avoid leaving out one of the genders, but instead, if only one gender is to be specified, it is specified that only one of them is being referred to.

It is called inclusive because the traditional language that has become popular, the common way of speaking that we have all learned, prioritises the masculine grammatical gender over the feminine. One of the clearest examples is to refer to a group of 10 women as "girls", but if a friend appears, just one, automatically change to "boys". To feel that in "girls" being ten women and one man the man does not feel included and we should change it, but on the contrary it is normal, is an example of how little inclusive the language is. Not to mention nouns and connotations that reflect much more than what they say .

In Spanish, gender is manifested grammatically in nouns, adjectives, nouns, pronouns and determiners. That is why joining inclusive language is important in Spanish because it is a language that makes a lot of gender difference, unlike other languages such as English, where there is a difference between she and he but neither adjectives, nor pronouns, nor determiners, have a gender difference.

Society has demanded it, denouncing the language as a form of discrimination, especially towards women and transgender people, and brands, which always seek to attract customers, have joined this language to improve their image, although in most cases it is pure greenwashing.

Brand use of social media

Social networks are one of the spaces where brands and companies communicate the most, so it is important that they know how to use inclusive language to address their followers. Here are some tips given by the United Nations to communicate with inclusive language:

  • Consider the type of communication (whether oral or written) and its purpose
  • Consider the context and the audience.
  • Ensure that the message, whether oral or written, is clear, fluent and concise, and that written texts are legible;
  • Try to use different strategies in combination throughout the message, oral or written.
  • Avoid discriminatory expressions
  • Avoid expressions with negative connotations.
  • Avoid expressions that perpetuate gender roles and stereotypes, e.g. instead of saying "nurses and doctors" replace it with "health workers".
  • Make gender visible only when the communicative situation demands it: there are sentences in which it is not necessary to use articles or determiners for the sentence to be complete and make sense and in which it is precisely because of their unnecessary use that the sentence becomes disrespectful. For example: The media representatives attended the meeting. In this case, "representative" is a neutral noun that only has gender if an article is added and that is precisely what we should avoid. Saying "Media representatives attended the meeting" is the most neutral and correct way of stating this sentence.
  • Splitting: using the feminine and masculine version of the same word, especially when you want to make both men and women visible. In the case of social networks, it is more advisable in written publications than in oral language, as it generates a slower language and in terms of time, videos and stories count the seconds millimetrically. On the other hand, for written language it is not an obstacle, reading is quick and the punctuation of both genders is appreciated. With regard to the order of the two forms, you can use the alphabetical order to seek maximum neutrality or alternate one form or the other to give fluidity to the change of gender.
  • Use collective nouns: Like neuter nouns, collective nouns are one of the most inclusive and correct forms to use in social media and elsewhere. Examples include structures such as "the community" instead of "the neighbours" or "the body of" instead of "the"
  • Using reflexive passives or the use of the impersonal se. These are two excellent grammatical devices when the gender of the person is unimportant and including it is what generates discrimination. For example, "when a customer asks for a claim" excludes women when you are trying to include both women and men, whereas "when someone asks for a claim" includes all people.
  • Use the infinitive and the gerund. There are often neutral structures that allow us not to specify gender, but we are not used to using them in common language because of the strong gender specification. For example, instead of saying "if we all work for a better world" we could say "working for a better world".
  • Typographic strategies: these are one of the most popular tactics in social media. However, they tend to be more informal than a neutral expression or a splitting, as they are still an abbreviation or change in the word that resembles the language popular in social media among young people, when they eliminate letters to save time in writing. Some of the typographic elements that can be used:
    • Slash / : used to change only part of the noun or adjective without changing the whole word, or change the determiner without changing the noun. i.e. El/La presidenta de la comunidad or el auditor/a.
    • Parentheses (): these are used in much the same way as the slash, although they are more common when the gender variation in the word is not in an ending but involves a different word. The emperor (the empress).
    • The x and the @: these two elements are used to replace the letter that changes the gender, e.g. "directorxs" "clientxs" "compradorxs". It is therefore only recommended in cases where an accompanying article is not going to be used, as it would sound very redundant and in that case a duplication or the use of a slash would be better.

However, these typographical strategies are only useful in written language, because in spoken language it is impossible to pronounce alumnxs or client@s or it is better to use duplication than to pronounce chicos/as.

In the end, language is much more than words, it reflects a society and a way of thinking and not being inclusive in our language reflects not being inclusive in the rest of our lives.

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