Words matter — and so does effective communication

Language should be inclusive, but also get its message across

Giulia Penni

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Photo by Yasin Yusuf on Unsplash

“The last time we performed together was in a big stadium like this and I ask them to sing with me all the time, and they won’t. So this is a very special occasion. They are very, very busy. Booked. And pricey. They cost me when they come out. But they’re worth every single penny because they’re my favorite duet partner of all time. So if you will indulge me.”

Jennifer Lopez caused a sensation when she said these words at the L.A. Dodgers Foundation Gala.

Her speech isn’t particularly remarkable — she is just introducing her duet partner to the crowd. What caught people’s attention is that Lopez introduced her partner using the pronouns they/them, and her partner was her daughter Emme.

Gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them are used for people who identify themselves as non-binary. By using her daughter’s preferred pronouns, JLo showed the world that she respects her daughter’s decision.

Using gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language means speaking and writing in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity. The purpose of using gender-inclusive language is to avoid words and expressions that may be perpetuate gender stereotypes.

Over the last decades, numerous guidelines have been developed and implemented at national and international level to promote a gender-fair use of language. Institutions, associations, universities, as well as companies and agencies have adopted guidelines for the non-sexist use of language.

Language plays an important role in shaping cultural and social attitudes, so using gender-inclusive language is a strong way to eradicate gender bias and promote gender equality.

However, some people seem to disagree.

When VW’s car brand Audi introduced gender-sensitive language guidelines at its German locations in an effort to respect diversity and fight discrimination, one of their employees decided to sue the company. Although he declared himself in favor of gender equality and against any discriminations, he didn’t want to receive emails and instructions about how…

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Giulia Penni

Copywriter @ Persado. Logophile. Lifelong learner. I don’t write to impress. I write to inform, entertain, inspire. Thanks for your time!