Words matter. According to research from Stanford University, the words that we choose can knowingly or unknowingly play a role in how we perceive the world. Do we choose to include or exclude? “It’s essential that all who engage with your brand, including people with disabilities, BIPOC audiences, and non-native English speakers, feel equally seen, welcomed, and supported by your business,” says Lisa Dougherty of the Content Marketing Institute.
“[We] have implicit biases, which can sometimes be reflected in our edits,” says Crystal Shelley in the blog for ACES: The Society for Editing. “Sometimes our biases show themselves in microaggressions. These brief, commonplace comments or actions—often unconscious or unintentional—that signal hostile or negative attitudes toward marginalized groups.”
For this issue of Intercom, we’re looking at the theme of inclusivity. There are multiple aspects of this theme. The first, of course, is how we, as technical communicators, approach inclusivity within our field. But the second—which has a much broader impact—is how we support inclusivity in our documentation, our writing, our strategy, and even the products our organizations produce.
This month’s contributors are looking at inclusivity from a variety of perspectives.
Language can improve access—both in terms of belonging and accessibility. Larry Kunz discusses how Extreme Networks launched an inclusive language initiative to ensure inclusivity in all communications in “Inclusive Language: The Right Thing to Do.” Char James-Tanny offers tips for improving accessibility and usability in her article, “Tips to Improve Document Accessibility.”
In academia, Huatong Sun discusses “Empowering from Within: Uttering Voices and Planting Seeds,” and how she’s teaching (and still learning about!) empathy and inclusivity in design in her role as an Associate Professor of Digital Media and Global User Experience Design at University of Washington Tacoma. In “UX and the Online Classroom,” Meghalee Das shares ways to make online learning more inclusive for non-native English speakers who may be learning from their home countries and grappling with unique technical and emotional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We also look at intention. How can we work to broaden our networks and be allies to those who we perceive as “different” from ourselves? When it’s reported that up to 80 percent of jobs are filled through networking, the people in your network matter. Shawneda Crout looks at how “Intention is the Antidote to Exclusion and Inequity.” Viqui Dill talks about her lived experience of learning to be an ally for her son and others in “Being an Ally: A Journey to Appreciate Neurodiversity.”
If marketers have adopted emotion analytics to influence our consumer behaviors, can the same technology be leveraged to influence support for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives? Rozelle Monroe looks at new approaches in “Leveraging Emotion Analytics: Augmenting DEI Efficacy in Approach and Sustainment.”
In “The Pen is Mightier Than the Brain,” excerpted from his excellent book, Design for Cognitive Bias, David Dylan Thomas talks about how plain language and clear design improve usability for all. This was one of my favorite professional books of 2020, and I’m thrilled to share this with you this month.
In this month’s Society Pages, Wendy Ross, chair of the STC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Panel discusses why the panel was formed, the goals of the group, and how you can get involved. In the Ethics Column, Michael Trice examines codes of ethics and how they could be used to moderate our often-inflammatory online communication. And finally, we go Off Hours with Timothy Esposito, who gives us a look into two of his extracurricular interests: supporting local history and playing tabletop games. (Pandemic, in particular, seems like a timely choice.)
As always, I welcome your suggestions for future issues of Intercom. I’m looking forward to elevating new voices and exploring a diverse array of topics. I hope to have a chance to meet you in a breakout room at Summit 2021!
Shashkevich, Alex. 2019. ”The Power of Language: How Words Shape People, Culture.” Accessed 7 April 2021. https://news.stanford.edu/2019/08/22/the-power-of-language-how-words-shape-people-culture/.
Dougherty, Lisa [@BrandLoveLLC]. n.d. Twitter. Accessed 7 April 2021. https://twitter.com/BrandloveLLC.
Shelley, Crystal. 2021. “Microaggressions in Editing.” ACES Blog. Accessed 7 April 2021. https://aceseditors.org/news/2021/microaggressions-in-editing.