Some of the wording and language in the articles published on this site were originally penned differently by yours truly. Our editor will usually make suggestions or make corrections when I or some other ZME authors use archaic words or potentially offensive terms, besides the inevitable misspelled words or clumsy phrase. These tasks have now been augmented by a new service aptly called Writer, which recently received a $5 million funding during a seed round to scale up.
Because there’s an AI for everything now
You know those squiggly lines that underline misspelled words in word processors? Apps like Grammarly or Writer are like that — but on steroids. Such software employs sophisticated natural processing engines enabled by machine learning to process a sentence and make suggestions for improvements.
What makes Writer particularly appealing is that you can set brand guidelines so that the suggestions the software makes are in line with your company’s values. Writer also enables both people and companies to flag language that might not be inclusive — something that, in this day and age, can be very important, whether it’s for corporate communication, essay writer service, or informal emails.
This is less about being politically correct but more about being respectful by employing language that people from underrepresented communities prefer when referring to them.
Furthermore, inclusive language seeks to treat all people with respect, dignity, and impartiality. As the name suggests, it is all about bringing everyone into the group and excluding no one.
Some basic principles of inclusive language include:
Putting people first. It’s better if your communication centers around person-first constructions that put the person ahead of their characteristics, e.g., instead of “a blind man” or “a female engineer,” use “a man who is blind” or “a woman on our engineering team.”
Avoiding idioms and jargon. Using specialized language, acronyms, and other ‘insider vocabulary’ can exclude people who are not familiar with such terms. Also, many idioms do not translate properly into other languages and may sow confusion.
Avoiding phrases that suggest victimhood when referring to people with disabilities. These include “afflicted by,” “victim of,” “suffers from,” or “confined to a wheelchair”.
Here are some examples of inclusive versus less inclusive language that you might find helpful to integrate in your communication.
More inclusive: Folks, people, you all, y’all, teammates Less inclusive: Guys (or women) when referring to people overall
More inclusive: Women Less inclusive: Girls (when referring to adults)
More inclusive: Workforce, personnel, workers, team Less inclusive: Manpower, man hours
More inclusive: Chairperson, chair, moderator, discussion leader Less inclusive: Chairman, foreman
More inclusive: Spouses/partners Less inclusive: Wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends
More inclusive: Parenting Less inclusive: mothering, fathering
More inclusive: Typical Less inclusive: Normal
If you find this daunting, Writer has up-to-date libraries of preferred phrases and wordings sourced from the disadvantaged or minority communities themselves. For instance, the software will automatically recommend capitalizing the “B” in Black, or changing elderly to seniors and homeless people to people experiencing homelessness.
Let’s face it, some phrases have become emotionally loaded in recent years, and it’s easy to slip up and use potentially offensive wording without realizing it.
Besides keeping a watchful eye on grammar and spelling and promoting inclusive language, Writer also flags your content if it’s too formal (or informal, depending on your settings), active voice, and “liveliness”, as well as other metrics that may be relevant to a company’s brand. Many of these suggestions would depend on your own style guide.
Having a keylogger running in the background might seem a bit worrisome, though. Speaking to Tech Crunch, Writer founder and CEO May Habib said that their software runs locally as a plug-in, integrating with either Word or Chrome.
The San Francisco startup was founded by Habib in early 2019, but has since rebranded and relaunched with a focus on diversity and inclusivity in August 2020 after receiving $5.2 million in seed financing.
“These places [Writer’s clients] really want to make sure they’re speaking to communities of color and communities of other minorities with the language that those communities themselves want to be used,” Habib told Bizjournals.
“So many companies now have made very broad claims that they want to be allies, but if their content doesn’t actually match those claims, then the brand really falls flat,” she added.
Writer costs $11/month per person for the basic version while the enterprise version, which offers additional features such as multiple style guides and plagiarism detection, is custom priced. For now, Writer is only available in English but its developers plan on using the $5 million seed round led by Upfront Ventures to expand and take on Spanish or Korean.