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Inclusive Documentation-Document360

How to write inclusive documentation?

How to write inclusive documentation?

Category: Technical Documentation

Last updated on Mar 9, 2022

A pen is mightier than a sword. This proverb emphasises the power of words. Writing is a powerful tool to convey powerful ideas and most importantly influence your readers with your thoughts. Thus, content writers have a huge responsibility to use this tool wisely. Content writers should not exhibit any bias and produce content in a friendly tone to appeal to anyone who reads their content. Being inclusive is the key!

Inclusive documentation must treat many different types of people fairly and equally. Every human being is treated with dignity and respect irrespective of their gender, race, religion, location, and so on. Showing empathy in your documentation style unlocks the potential of being fair and equal to all. Inclusive documentation promotes harmony in the society and makes our planet a better place to live. Being inclusive should be a guiding principle for documentation framework and content writers need to practice in producing bias-free inclusive content.

Since the content writers do not know the characteristics of their audience, they must choose the right language, tone, and more importantly words to express their ideas. Choice of words that the content writer chooses matters! The use of gender-neutral pronouns boosts positive feelings towards women and LGBTIQ people. Words and expressions of thoughts should not discriminate or offend any human beings in the world.

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Five steps to produce inclusive documentation

1. Use gender neutral terms

Gender-neutral terms help to avoid favouring gender over others. Avoiding gender specific pronouns in the content helps to achieve gender neutrality. For example, instead of using terms such as laymen, man-hours, mankind; Choose terms like layperson, person-hours and humankind.

Instead of using terms such as blacklist and whitelist, use terms such as blocked and allowed. This removes cultural bias in your documentation. In addition to content writing, the UX copywriter should pay more attention to menu items, copyright texts in dialog boxes, and pop-up texts in ensuring gender-neutral terms are used across the product.

Avoid using terms such as slave-master architecture; Instead, use terms such as two-tiered architecture. The code snippets, API request body, and response examples need to be examined to adhere to using gender-neutral code segments.

2. Choose neutral and friendly tone

Choosing the right tone is a skill that content writers need to practice and excel in. Tone, like language itself, works because people agree on the meaning behind words. Cultural norms often dictate how those are perceived. It takes knowledge of those norms and expectations, as well as the context of the conversation, to be able to convey the intended emotions. The stakes are often elevated to match the importance of the message, so more attention is warranted. Writing in a neutral tone helps not to induce any positive or negative feelings about the content. A few recommendations are

  • Using right choice of words/vocabulary
  • Use right punctuation
  • Use gerunds instead of action words if you wish to mask any time related
  • Ensure the information flows in right pace in your content
  • Proof-read your content before publication

3. Avoid using slang words

Slang words in the local language and context should be avoided. Some of the local slang words that are used to refer to things might be offensive or funny in another country/location where your global audience comes from. The content writers should not narrate anything using slang words to get the content as funny and witty.

Many countries around the world provide country-specific guidelines on language that is culturally appropriate. Respectful language and words must be used in a consistent manner to refer to age related content. Avoid using gender specific titles and job roles in any context

4. Use visuals that are diverse in nature

If you are using any visuals in the content that has profile pictures and names, having diverse profile pictures and names support your inclusiveness principles. Visuals having mix of people promote cultural diversity and showcase inclusive corporate culture. This boost brand image and customer loyalty. Brand images are often associated with what values they stand for. During any societal crisis, brands do take a stand for their inclusiveness and diversity which proliferates brand consciousness.

During marketing and tutorial videos production, having a good mix of different characters and voices promotes equity and equality. Inclusiveness and diversity are closely associated with equity and equality.

5. Use right terms when discussing accessibility and disability

Disability does not define people. Content writers should avoid bias and harm when writing about people with disabilities or about accessibility. Content writers need to research and accessibility guidelines on preferred terms and understand word nuances. Terms that are judgemental in nature should be avoided to not hurt people’s feelings. Terms that are exhibit euphemisms or patronizing shall not appear in the content as it may cause harm.

Training and content audit

Good Product  documentation style guidelines, glossary terms, and other guidelines for technical content writers to be adhered to. The content writers need to be periodically trained on inclusive and diversity guidelines. This training can be part of the company’s internal HR practices to onboard new content writers and upskill current content writers respectively.

The content audit should take place every year to ensure existing content complies with inclusive and diversity principles. The audit shall identify any documentation gaps and provide recommendations to improve content quality. These audit reports can be made public to garner customer trust for standing for inclusive and diversity principles

Also Read: What is Software Documentation? Its types and Best practices

Conclusion

Writing inclusive documentation creates societal coherence and helps spread peace among the global audience. Inclusive language should be part of a technical content writer’s skillset. Technical content writers should be periodically trained on inclusive documentation practices. This leads content creation that is appealing to a global audience and in-line with the company’s values.

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