Our choice of language can influence who feels included and who feels excluded. Sometimes this is deliberate and sometimes subconscious. An academic might be writing for other academics and therefore save space by not explaining concepts they expect others to understand. However, this can exclude non-academics or even other academics from another field. If we are looking for a very specialist volunteer, it might be appropriate to use language that “narrows the field” by using jargon or abbreviations. Using these without considering who you exclude or why, might mean you miss out on meeting your ideal volunteer for the role. If you use language that excludes some of your existing volunteers in emails or other communications, you are likely to lose those volunteers.
Things to consider:
Jargon and Abbreviation
If you need to use these, can you explain their definition or write it out in full the first time you use them in any document or communication?
If you use slang, sarcasm or an idiom / “turn of phrase” your intended audience may be confused, particularly if English is not their first language. Examples of this include phrases such as “over the moon” or “kill two birds with one stone”.
Does using the phrase “like-minded people”, particularly in adverts, accidentally exclude people who think they may be different from your typical volunteer? Would this particularly affect people from a more diverse background?
Only using English
Would you reject a volunteer who did not speak fluent English? Could you consider communicating/advertising in a different language?
If all your information about your project is online, via websites and social media, or you have to email to apply for the role, then you could be excluding people who are computer illiterate or who have no access to a computer.
If you use vocabulary that is not every-day English it may be confusing for people. You don’t want them to feel that they need a dictionary in their hand just to read an email.
Including your own pronouns when introducing yourself, in writing or in person, can help ensure others are not misgendered. However, requiring others to do so might make a trans person feel more visible and uncomfortable.
Using gender neutral terms and greetings is more inclusive. For example, saying “welcome everyone” rather than “welcome ladies and gentlemen”, referring to parents rather than mothers and fathers, and humanity rather than mankind.
Generalisations about People or Groups
Generalisations about people can makes members of that group feel unwelcome. For example, saying “old people are slow” rather than “some people find physical activity more difficult as they get older”.
If you use an active voice rather than a passive voice in your writing it may be more engaging and easier to understand your intent. For example, “The volunteers were doing the task” vs “The task was being done by volunteers”.