Words Matter: Using Inclusive Language in Multifamily
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What You Say Matters: Using Inclusive Language in Multifamily

Posted on August 11, 2022 by Stephanie Anderson

Words Matter graphic, with examples of seemingly innocuous phrases that are not inclusive

Our words directly and indirectly impact the people who hear or read them. Upon a recent review of hundreds of apartment community websites across the U.S., the common choice of verbiage — used over and over again — may shock you. 

While not intentional, the words used to describe an apartment community, its amenities, and features could be defined as discriminatory and non-inclusive. In many urban communities, one common mistake found was the term “walking” when used to describe proximity to well known places in the surrounding community. Advertising to prospective residents using that term implies that everyone is able to walk. When thinking about language, better words can be chosen that are inclusive for all persons, able and disabled.

Words Matter graphic, with examples of seemingly innocuous phrases that are not inclusive

The language associated with gender, disabilities, age, class, size, indigenous people, racial, ethnic, and religious identity can be sensitive and is constantly evolving as societal views change and groups choose to redefine their own identities. Inclusive language is important to prevent people from feeling offended by our word choice. In our ever-changing environment, it may be difficult to analyze all verbiage, but starting small can still have a significant impact on a person’s perception. Let’s look at a few introductory examples:

  • Instead of saying Jack and Jill bathroom, use roommate or dual bathroom.
  • Instead of saying his and her closets, use double walk-in closets.
  • Instead of saying master bedroom, use primary or main bedroom.

Apartment communities that don’t adopt an inclusive vocabulary won’t necessarily face legal consequences. However, perception is reality, and not using inclusive language in your property description, signage, collateral, or conversations can position your community as not accessible or accommodating to all groups. Training your teams to be conscious of language when talking to each other, to prospects, and to residents will set the stage for success — and best communicate your community’s mission regarding inclusion.

In addition, encouraging the use of personal pronouns while incorporating gender-neutral language are the first steps to consider in the workplace. The National Apartment Association (NAA) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) have resources to get you started on preferred terminology and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. 

The use of inclusive language resonates with more audiences and creates a sense of belonging for all, opening opportunities for more prospective residents and potential employees. I challenge you to embrace a culture that practices sensitivity for all. 

For more information, including tips on gender-inclusive language and a guide to using pronouns, check out our exclusive micro-learning boosters offered in Vision.

Stephanie is the Senior Director of Communications and Social Media at Grace Hill and has over 17 years of property management experience. She is a leader in multifamily, bringing a unique 360-perspective gained from her previous roles as an operator, a nonprofit association manager, and a supplier partner. Stephanie brings a wealth of knowledge specializing in industry trends, creative marketing, and employee engagement. Stephanie is a certified facilitator through NAA Education Institute (NAEEI) and was awarded Designate of the Year in 2015 and CAM of the Year in 2013. She is a powerhouse speaker who motivates others and disrupts the status quo with out-of-the-box ideas and trends. Stephanie graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in English Literature and Women’s Studies. She also holds a Virginia Real Estate License and is a certified Mental Health First Aid Trainer. Stephanie is a proud graduate of NAA’s Leadership Lyceum and passionate about promoting awareness of human trafficking in rental housing. Learn more about Stephanie Anderson’s background and experience on her LinkedIn page.

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