Inclusive Language at Pantheon and in the Pantheon Community

Elevate the way we communicate and support community and contributors in using more inclusive language.

Contributors: Tara King, Carolyn Shannon, Edward Angert, Caity Bishop, Katie McGonigal.

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This guide is intended to elevate the way we communicate at Pantheon, and to support our community and contributors in using more inclusive language. It will help ensure everyone feels included and welcome by the language we use and the examples we share.

What is Inclusive Language?

Inclusive language is defined as "language that avoids the use of certain expressions or words that might be considered to exclude particular groups of people."

When using inclusive language, you are "acknowledging diversity, conveying respect to all people, being sensitive to differences, and promoting equitable opportunities." - University of Oregon

What Inclusive Language Means at Pantheon

It's how we show up. At Pantheon, everyone has a responsibility to communicate and behave inclusively. It's the way we lift others up, show up for others, speak in group settings, and consistently consider other perspectives and backgrounds.

We know inclusive language is essential in building trust, attracting talent, and aiding productivity. But most importantly, it will help us grow a diverse company and community where inclusivity is the very fabric of how we act, speak, feel, and think.

Who This Is For

This guide is shared internally to help teams communicate with other teams, and externally to writers for our Docs pages, Blog, or on our forum.

Who Benefits

This will help drive inclusivity in the way we communicate with everyone, including Pantheon employees, our customers, our prospects, people in our communities, and those learning about us in the news or on our blog.

Applicable Content

This guide applies to everything. Consider inclusive language in the product, presentation decks, job ads, social media, documentation, blog posts, websites, and the ways we communicate with each other.

Inclusive Language Guide

What is ableist language?

Ableist language is offensive to people with disability. It can also refer to language that is derogatory, abusive, or negative about disability.

Examples & Alternatives

  • Rather than "sanity check", be specific about the type of check-in needed.
  • Avoid describing something as "crippled", "crippling", or "lame". Instead, try words like "broken" or "hindering".
  • Instead of something being "crazy" or "insane", try "baffling," "wild," "unexpected" or similar language.
  • Instead of “OCD”, use “meticulous” or “detail oriented”.
  • Instead of “mute”, use “non-verbal”.
  • When referring to someone with a disability, do not use the words “high (or low) functioning”. “High functioning is not how an autistic person experiences being autistic, it’s how society experiences the autistic person.” - Kat Williams

What is violent language

Violent communication limits liberty, denies recognition of needs, diminishes the worth of a person, and/or blocks compassion. Violent communication is often the result of using manipulative or coercive language that induces fear, guilt, shame, praise, blame, duty, obligation, punishment, and/or reward.

Examples & Alternatives

Avoid the use of violent metaphors such as STONITH, rape, or murder when talking about technical topics. Most often, a more specific and literal term is more useful to the reader and more welcoming.

Phrases like "one throat to choke" can be replaced with "one hand to shake" or "a single point of accountability." These alternatives remove the violent language and refocus on productive partnerships.

What is gendered language

Gendered language is commonly understood as language that has a bias towards a particular sex or social gender.

Examples & Alternatives

  • In place of gendered nouns like “man” or “mankind”, use “person” or “people”.
  • Use "they" as the default pronoun when speaking in third person or generic terms, in place of “he or she”.
  • When speaking to a group, rather than “you guys”, use “all", "y'all", or other more inclusive terminology.
  • Rather than describing a feature or tool as "so easy my mom/wife/grandma can use it," describe the skills or experience needed for the specific tool. (source)

What is racial language?

Racial language is derogatory to people due to their ethnicity, race, or skin color. These terms, slurs, and stereotypes contributed to decades of prejudice, discrimination, and violence.

Examples & Alternatives

  • Avoid using "slave" in any context. Use a more accurate term, such as "worker," "replica", or "secondary," depending on your needs.
  • Related, avoid the word "master". "Primary", "original" or "controller" are possible alternatives.
  • "Grandfathered in" is a term rooted in racist voter suppression. Try "exempt from" or "legacy" instead.
  • Many terms appropriate and disrespect Native and Indigenous traditions. Rather than "have a pow-wow", try "have a quick chat." "Spirit animals" can be replaced with "mascot". "Hold down the fort," "on the warpath," and "circle the wagons" also have roots in the violent history of US colonization and should be avoided. (Learn more.)

At Pantheon, we have standardized on:

  • Allowlist/blocklist rather than whitelist/blacklist
  • main rather than master for branch naming conventions

Engineering work is ongoing to correct these naming conventions.

What is classist language?

Classist language denigrates or erases the experience of those from other socio-economic classes, specifically those classes seen as "below" the speaker.

Examples & Alternatives

  • Avoid referring to people as "hobos," "poor" or "the unfortunate". Try "economically disadvantaged" or "experiencing poverty" as alternatives.
  • Avoid referring to countries as “third world” or “under-developed”.

Doing Better

Put the Person First

When referring to someone, put the person ahead of their identity, characteristics, or position.

For example, "a person who is deaf", "a woman who is a doctor", and "a person who has a traumatic brain injury" instead of "a deaf person", "a female doctor", and a "brain damaged person". When the individual's gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or ability is not relevant to the conversation, avoid mentioning it entirely.

Avoid Idioms and Jargon

Many of us habitually use language or phrases local to our community or industry that unintentionally exclude others. If you are in North America, for example, you might use phrases like "circle back" or "put a pin in it" and the meaning of these phrases will not be clear to a global audience.

Similarly, communicating in acronyms assumes a level of knowledge and excludes those who might require an explanation or use different words to describe the same concept.

Use Empowering Language

It's detrimental to suggest victimhood in talking about any group of people. Avoid phrases such as "victim of", "afflicted by", "suffers from", "confined to", and "challenged in" when referring to any person or group of people.

Be Aware of Unconscious Bias

Unconscious biases are underlying stereotypes, attitudes, or generalizations we hold toward a group of people that may not be immediately obvious, but affect how we treat others.

Unconscious biases influence how we communicate, make decisions, agree or disagree, hire people, and work with people. Awareness is the first step in avoiding unconscious biases, and there is training you can take to further your education.

Consider Other Points of Reference

No matter who you're communicating with or the method of your communication, it's essential to remember — everyone interacting with your content is bringing their own perspective and has their own point of reference. Dismissing, diminishing, or rejecting another person's point of view creates harm to that person and their community, and significantly weakens your own message, too.

Inclusive Language and Our Community

With a global community of WordPressers and Drupalistas, we are bound to have conflicts around how we speak to and write about one another. Rather than using a shifting and undocumented list of what's okay and what isn't, this list is intended to guide us toward respectful communication.

To that end, we strongly encourage any community member with questions or concerns about this list to open an issue or reach out to community@pantheon.io for further discussion.

Looking to the Future

Because language constantly evolves, we welcome and encourage additions and alterations to this document from Pantheon employees and community members.

Our guide on contributing to Pantheon documentation can help you get started.

See Also