Cultural Background & Education
Everyone’s experience of life is different – and it’s our responsibility to engage with everyone, in a way that they can understand.
This means we need to make an effort to use language that is universal, accessible and direct. Additionally, it’s important to take a moment to assess our own turns of phrase – you may be surprised at how many culturally-biased phrases and terms make it into your own writing and everyday language.
Writing universally for all cultures
Cultural references might work for the subset of people who understand them, but for everyone else, they can make for an alienating experience. Most of us will remember a time when someone quoted from a movie we had not seen or a book we had not read, and waited for us ‘get’ the reference.
Part of equity and inclusivity is communicating accessibly, so people with a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences can feel welcomed and thrive. So, let’s communicate in a way that gives everyone the same opportunity to understand, respond, and benefit.
Apart from explicit cultural references, this can occur in everyday language, because language is full of metaphors and idioms, some of which we could use without realizing. These may be based on history, sports, media, or other subjects that may be unclear to someone who has a different language, cultural background, or set of interests.
We have included a few examples below. Once you start noticing these, you will realize they are everywhere!
“It’s the bottom of the ninth” – requires baseball knowledge.
- “It’s a crucial period”
- “We don’t have much time left”
“Saved by the bell” – requires boxing knowledge.
- “That was close”
- “We did it at the last minute”
“Hold down the fort” – a military-based term that once referred to the US army repelling Native Americans.
- “Look after things”
Getting information across clearly
The goal of communication is to impart information as clearly, effectively and comprehensively as possible. Reading our content should feel natural and effortless, any additional time or brainpower spent trying to understand complex vocabulary, or unnecessarily intricate sentence structures, detracts from the core message.
Of course, we need to talk about technical subjects at times and the correct language should be used here. But wherever possible, we should use plain, non-technical language that can be universally understood.