Using Inclusive Language in Your Video Script

Molly Howe

The script is perhaps the most important component of a video. Without a script, your video has no message or incentive behind it. A script details every single aspect of your video, from the footage you want to the voiceover and sound you need to match your visuals. It’s a specific set of instructions for everyone involved in the making of your video. To produce digital content that reflects your company’s inclusion policy, you must use inclusive language in your internal communications and marketing video scripts. 

The basics of scriptwriting

To best implement inclusive language into your video content, you must first understand how to develop an effective script. To get a complete overview of the scriptwriting process, please take a look at this article, but I’ll go over some very basic tips here:

  • Think about what your script will do
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Formulate a structure (what, how, why)
  • Clear your mind before you start writing
  • Open with a hook
  • Add a call to action
  • Use the right language
  • Think about the purpose of your video
  • Read the script out loud when developing
scriptwriting
scriptwriting

What is inclusivity 

Inclusivity is the practice of ensuring equal access to opportunities and resources for those who might otherwise be marginalised. All types of people, predominantly those who have faced systematic oppression and exclusion are represented through inclusivity. Marginalised groups include:

  • LGBTQI individuals
  • People with physical and mental disabilities 
  • Women and girls
  • People who are systematically excluded because of their race

Creating a culture of inclusivity

An inclusive culture at work should promote an environment that welcomes and appreciates employees from every background. Whilst inclusive culture should steer away from a ‘colourblind’ mindset, it does seek to develop a culture where all employees are valued equally and are respected for their differing attributes. 

Companies can create an outward projection of inclusivity through their actions and marketing. Inclusive marketing considers diversity and shows awareness of your business’ wide audience.

There are many ways to promote a culture of inclusivity both internally and externally:

  • Ensure representation
  • Hire diverse candidates 
  • Avoid appropriation 
  • Counter stereotypes 
  • Listen to minority groups
  • Provide action
  • Value all input
  • Two-way communication between leaders and employees

One of the most important and effective ways to promote an inclusive culture is through language.  

What is inclusive language 

Inclusive language avoids expressing or implying ideas that are sexist, racist, or otherwise biased or prejudiced against any group. Throughout time, language has been used as a weapon to perpetuate hatred. Using inclusive language with the intention of reversing this notion helps to create a more productive and safe environment for everyone, particularly in a business environment. Take some time to watch Fahad Saeed’s Ted Talk where he explains the importance of inclusive language and its ability to tear down barriers. 

Let’s explore how you can incorporate inclusive language into your internal communications and marketing video content…

Gender inclusive language

Gendered language involves words and phrases that ascribe gender based attributes or feature an inclination to one sex. Unless necessary for the context of the video, most scripts should seek to minimise the use of gendered language to promote inclusivity. 

Gendered expressions

Expressions that negatively present gender should be avoided entirely if seeking to promote inclusive language. This involves phrases like ‘man-up’, ‘mankind’, and ‘the best man for the job’. These should be easy to integrate into your scripts in a way that avoids gender entirely: ‘be brave’ and ‘humankind’. 

Similarly, job descriptions should never be gendered, unless specifically referencing a person. Use ‘camera operator’ instead of cameraman and ‘police officer’ instead of policeman. 

Gendered terms used to describe groups of people are also not always necessary. Terms like ‘guys’ or ‘ladies’ can be replaced with ‘folks’, ‘staff’ or ‘colleagues’. 

gender inclusive profession
gender inclusive profession

LGBTQI+ inclusive language 

To be inclusive of sexuality, before anything else, it is important to not assume that everyone is heterosexual. Using terms like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’, ‘mum and dad’ can exclude those in the LGBT+ community. Words and phrases like ‘partner’, ‘relationship’, and ‘parents’ champion inclusivity. 

Pronouns 

If gendered pronouns such as ‘he’ and ‘she’ are not necessary for your script then try to use ‘they’ or ‘their’.

‘The footballer thought if they had better boots their shooting would be better’ 

‘A nurse will provide you with assistance during your stay in our hospital, you can call them if needed at any point’

When featuring a real person in your video remember to ask how they like to identify so you can insert their pronouns and descriptors in the script.

LGBT
LGBT

Disability inclusive language

When discussing disability in your videos, it is important to consider a ‘person first’ approach over the traditional ‘disability first’ approach. This tends to be the most respectful and appropriate way of referring to those with disabilities. It describes what a person has, rather than what a person is. Traditional ways of describing disability can reinforce stereotypes and lead to discrimination. Person-first language emphasises that a person with a disability is, before anything else, a person like everyone else.

Person-first language emphasises the person before their disability:

  • Person who is blind
  • Person with cerebral palsy
  • Someone who is in recovery from a substance abuse disorder 
  • Linda uses a wheelchair

Disability first language, which is often not an inclusive way of describing someone with a disability includes saying:

  • The blind
  • The disabled 
  • An addict
  • Wheelchair-bound

The ‘person first’ approach is by no means a blanket approach and a ‘disability first’ approach is not inherently negative. For instance, many in the deaf community prefer the term ‘deaf person’.

Wheelchair inclusive language
Wheelchair inclusive language

Race inclusive language 

The importance of language in the way it can present race cannot be understated, and it is impossible to sum up in so few words. I will briefly cover how you can inclusively talk about race in your video scripts, but for more comprehensive information please see these articles:

CIPD: How to talk about race at work.

Hive Learning: How to talk about race & ethnicity 

NIH: Reporting Race: Use of Inclusive Language in Disparities Research

BAME?

The term ‘BAME’, meaning black, Asian, and minority ethnic, although commonly used in the UK is not appropriate to be used as a replacement for describing racial or ethnic groups. It is not an adjective and does not describe individual identities. Scholar-Activist and CEO of Ladders4Action, Dr Addy Adelaine says that through the use of ‘BAME’:

‘Nuance of identity was removed because it is easier to mistreat and abuse those we do not see with nuance,’ she explains. ‘Nuance of identity helps us to see individuals, with individual stories, individual families, and histories. Individuals who are deserving of equal treatment and a respected part of a collective humanity. While white people maintained individuality and nuance of identity, history tells us that nuance of identity is a privilege that not everyone is afforded’.

Generalisations 

Sweeping generalisations in your wording, such as ‘BAME’, but also in the form of  ‘others’ carry little weight when addressing race. Terms such as ‘underrepresented groups’ or ‘systematically excluded peoples’ are more fitting. 

Nouns

Races should never be presented as nouns: ‘blacks’, ‘asians’, ‘whites’. They should be presented in their adjective form: ‘black patients’, ‘asian mothers’, ‘white carers’. 

To explore the most appropriate inclusive language, host focus groups with members of a race to understand best how they would like to be represented.

Remember…

It is important to remember when discussing inclusive language that in all cases, however a person chooses to self-identify is entirely up to them. This should not be corrected in the name of inclusion. 

Language fluency

Acronyms, idioms, and general jargon, when used in video scripts can be hard for non-native English speakers to fully understand. If possible, you should take the opportunity to be sympathetic to these individuals, ensuring they aren’t left out or embarrassed by their confusion or struggle to comprehend.

Typically, idioms and jargon are avoidable. When they are avoided and expressed in a more universal context it promotes understanding for all. Whilst this is important to consider in marketing and internal communications, it is perhaps the medical field that must take this advice most seriously. As a fundamental human right, It is essential that all groups have access to medical content, and are able to be made aware of options surrounding medical care and services.  

Inclusive language
Inclusive language

 

Here are a few examples:

Acronyms 

‘RSVP’ > please reply 

‘ASAP’ > soon

‘MSG’ > message

Idioms

‘Beat around the bush’ > avoid saying something

‘Out of hand’ > losing control

‘Miss the boat’ > Too late

‘Hit the hay’ > go to sleep 

Jargon

Baked-in > included within

Bandwidth > Capacity 

Leverage > take advantage of

Time to learn and evolve 

Inclusive language can seem like it is in a state of constant metamorphosis. When writing a script you should seek to try your best to be respectful to all. There may be times when you have included non-inclusive vocabulary in your video, simply apologise, alter if you can, and reflect on how you can make your future videos more inclusive. 

If you would like some support in creating scripts and videos that champion your company’s inclusive culture, contact us at Kartoffel Films. With over 2000 videos worth of experience, both animated and live-action, Kartoffel Films can sort out all of the difficulties and logistics associated with the planning and execution of your videos and deliver a wonderful end product destined to impress.