The Inclusive Language Field Guide: 6 Simple Principles for Avoiding Painful Mistakes and Communicating Respectfully (Paperback)
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Avoid inadvertently offending or alienating anyone by following six straightforward communication guidelines developed by a no-nonsense linguistic anthropologist and business consultant.
In today's fast-moving and combative culture, language can feel like a minefield. Terms around gender, disability, race, sexuality and more are constantly evolving. Words that used to be acceptable can now get you “cancelled.” People are afraid of making embarrassing mistakes. Or sounding outdated or out of touch. Or not being as respectful as they intended.
But it’s not as complicated as it might seem. Linguistic anthropologist Suzanne Wertheim offers six easy-to-understand principles to guide any communication—written or spoken—with anyone:
• Reflect reality
• Show respect
• Draw people in
• Incorporate other perspectives
• Prevent erasure
• Recognize pain points
This guide clarifies the challenges—and the solutions—to using "they/them," and demonstrates why "you guys" isn't as inclusive as many people think. If you follow the principles, you'll know not to ask a female coworker with a wedding ring about her husband—because she might be married to a woman. And you'll avoid writing things like "America was discovered in 1492," because that's just when Europeans found it.
Filled with real-world examples, high-impact word substitutions, and exercises that boost new skills, this book builds a foundational toolkit so people can evaluate what is and isn't inclusive language on their own.
About the Author
Suzanne Wertheim is CEO of Worthwhile Research & Consulting. After getting her PhD in Linguistics from Berkeley, she held faculty positions at Northwestern, University of Maryland, and UCLA. In 2011, she left the university system in order to apply her expertise to real-world problems. Her clients have included Google, Reddit, Charles Schwab, One Medical, News Nation, Salesforce, and Shondaland, among others. She is the creator of a LinkedIn Learning course called Inclusive Language at Work that has been taken by tens of thousands of learners.
“The ultimate road map to welcoming, including, and honoring everyone we encounter with the power of inclusive language. So stop walking on eggshells around colleagues, ramp up your ILQ (inclusive language intelligence), and start drawing people in instead of making them feel erased.”
—W. Brad Johnson, PhD, Professor, United States Naval Academy, and coauthor of Good Guys
“Suzanne Wertheim’s clear and straightforward book goes beyond flat dos and don’ts. Instead, she gives us the keys to why and how words and phrases we may have grown up using can wound and exclude people we want to welcome.”
—Cindy Cohn, Executive Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation
“Businesses want to be more inclusive, and language is key. This book provides a step-by-step guide anyone can use to harness the power of language and communicate more respectfully.”
—Jonah Berger, Professor, The Wharton School, and bestselling author of Contagious, The Catalyst, and Magic Words
“This is much more than a book on inclusive language. This is a people-leader book. I honestly believe this should be required reading for anyone who has the responsibility of holding authority over others.”
—Cynthia Overton, PhD, Senior Director of Tech Workplace Initiatives, Kapor Center
“A new, important, and genuinely useful resource for human resources professionals. Because your words at work will always matter, it’s never too late to strengthen your relationships with colleagues and clients through inclusive language. This is a must-read!”
—Brandon Wheatley, employment law attorney and HR leader