If you truly want to be an inclusive business, or show that your internal practices are inclusive, it starts with the copy and content on your website and social media.
If you want to be inclusive but your writing style or websites are inaccessible (for whatever reason), it will put off customers and potential hires who need accommodations.
These things don’t take that much effort to do. If you find any of them challenging, you can always get the help of an external editor or content writer. (Hi! ????)
You can even research some courses or classes that teach you how to write more clearly and train yourself out of writing for a more academic audience. (Which is the default for many of us after decades of schooling, and there’s no shame in that.)
None of this is about talking down to your reader or treating them like they’re an idiot. There’s a big difference between being pedantic and being inclusive. You can help someone without talking to them like they’re a five-year-old.
So, let’s take a deeper dive into what your business can do to reflect its inclusive culture in your copy and content.
Use ‘they’ to mean singular
This is already fairly common in the UK, but I have seen some US writers and publishers prefer to alternate between using ‘he’ or ‘she’ pronouns instead of just putting ‘they’.
Using ‘they’ to mean a singular person (regardless of their gender) is not a new practice, even though it’s often assumed that it is.
Using ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ uses fewer words, it’s quicker to read, and ensures that you’re covering every gender without having to list every single one, every single time.
It makes your life easier by using just one word and represents your inclusive policies without needing to explicitly say anything.
Use ALT tags for more than just SEO
I’m never quite sure how many people know the real purpose of ALT tags.
I hate how most people talk about them in terms of their SEO benefits rather than their actual purpose—to describe images for people who use a screen reader.
So, if you use ALT tags for keyword stuffing, you’re missing out on the actual point of them.
And showing anyone who uses a screen reader that actually you’re not as inclusive as you claim to be.
There are ways that you can include your keywords alongside a description of the image. It’s a lot easier to do if the image is related to what your content is about, rather than using any old image just to break up the text. That’s not an effective use of imagery in your content anyway.
One of my favourite examples of using ALT tags was on a guest post I had on The Writer’s Cookbook a few years ago.
Natalie managed to inject humour into the ALT tags alongside descriptions of the images…
…while still optimising them for SEO. It was a great use of them and reading each description made me laugh.
Even though there may not be as many people who read your ALT text as those who read the rest of your content, there’s no reason you can’t use them as an opportunity to inject some personality into what you’re doing while still being descriptive.
Space out your paragraphs
Please, I’m begging you. For the sake of people on mobiles everywhere—space out your paragraphs!
Big chunky blocks of text are horrible to read, and they take our brains a lot more effort to read.
When paragraphs are short and snappy, we can skim them a lot easier while still fully processing the content.
A lot of commercial novels now are very dialogue-heavy because they’re designed to be read quickly, which requires shorter paragraphs that keep our eyes moving.
Long sentences and paragraphs require more processing power.
Your website is great to look at. Why not allow the white space on it to breathe?
Just like in a poem, white space in a blog post, or even website copy, is your friend.
The more you space things out, the more engaged you keep your readers and the more likely they are to stick around and come back for your future content.
Don’t use big words when a small one will do
Every business wants to make their customers’ lives easier, right?
If your content is hard to understand, you’re immediately making their lives a lot harder. Even if you don’t mean to.
That means your website readers don’t associate you with having an easier life and solving their problems.
Instead, they’re more likely to associate you with having to work harder, think harder, and use more brain power.
So they’re not going to come to you if they have a problem that needs solving because they won’t think you can help them solve it in a simple enough way.
You may, instead, be making them feel stupid because you’re using words they don’t understand. And who wants to work with someone who makes them feel dumb?
Use the Oxford comma
The Oxford, or serial, comma, is a hill I’m prepared to die on.
Because of the way my brain works, I tend to read what people write pretty literally. So, if something is lacking the Oxford comma, this is what my brain sees:
Even if that’s not what someone meant without it, I take that writing literally. It’s partly the way I’m trained and partly because I’m neurodivergent.
Writing is easier to understand, and there’s less room for ambiguity, when you use the serial comma.
When you don’t, you risk confusing, and isolating, your audience.
Use camel case in hashtags
Camel case makes hashtags and programming languages easier to read. So instead of writing #contentmarketing, you’d write #ContentMarketing. Our brains can read this quicker and easier.
It’s also much easier for someone with a condition like dyslexia to read.
These are just some small accommodations you can make in your business content to make it more accessible.
When content is more accessible, you increase your audience. Which means more potential customers!
If you’d like help optimising your content for readability, get in touch today.
And if you know of any other ways to make content more inclusive, I’d love to hear them in the comments.