I want to write posts that speak to anyone interested in tech. I want to limit the effects of my bias and do my small part to make the tech industry more inclusive and welcoming. Writing code and managing technology as a profession is hard enough as it is, we should be doing everything we can to make it easier on ourselves. I plan to do this by making my writing more inclusive by including myself when giving advice, avoiding pronouns and by using gender neutral names in examples.
Not “You” and “They” but “We” and “Us”
Advice is much easier to give than receive and opinions can be much harder hitting when we’re leaving ourselves out when voicing an opinion. Opinions are much easier for us to write about when we are saying what “you” should do and how “they” should react but I plan on being a part of the tech industry for a long time so my writing should also be directed at me because I’m part of the problems and the solutions.
Pronouns Will Be Avoided
I dislike pronouns in general. I try not to use pronouns in any conversation. When using pronouns in hypothetical situations, which are often found in writings about technology, pronouns can make things exclusionary and unclear.
Using Gender pronouns highlight gender biases that are usually not our intent when we’re writing about technical things. Computers, systems, frameworks and code don’t act differently based on our gender so using gender pronouns when giving technical examples is unnecessary. When talking about people-things, I will use titles and gender neutral names as much as possible to address the people involved in the things.
Even outside of gender pronouns and the desire to be inclusive of all genders, pronouns in general just increase the chance for confusion. There are many ways that the word “it” has been misunderstood in technical conversations causing confusion and grief so I will avoid using the words “it’, “they” and “them” to avoid miscommunication about different things.
Gender Neutral Names
As much as I want to just use titles and nicknames for people in my posts, giving people names and personalities is way more relatable to readers. I anticipate peoples’ eyes glazing over if I only refer to people in my examples as Project Manager or Developer or Stakeholder so I should give them names but how can I do this while keeping my posts gender neutral? Easy! I’ll use gender neutral names! There’s plenty of resources for gender neutral names. This allows readers to inject our own biases to make the posts more relatable instead of injecting my biases and taking the chance of unnecessarily offending readers.
Inclusionary Language is Important
A quick search for “inclusive language” shows guidelines, style guides and advice from organizations across the tech industry for using inclusive language which is very encouraging to see. I want us all to do more.
- Writing inclusive documentation (Google)
- Bias-free communication (Microsoft)
- Human Interface Guidelines – Inclusion (Apple)
- Inclusion and Diversity in Writing and Oral Presentation (Association for Computing Machinery Symposium on Cloud Computing)
- 2021 IEEE SA Standards Style Manual (IEEE, Section 10.5 – PDF)
- Inclusive Language in Technology (Academy Software Foundation)
For a more general approach to using inclusive language, this TEDxCopenhagen talk, “The importance of using inclusive language” by Fahad Saeed is a good video to watch.