Tags: gender

Avoiding the Inadvertent Email Insult

Avoiding the Inadvertent Email Insult

Beyond • November 3, 2010

Last week we touched upon ways to keep your email marketing text neutral & non-offensive by avoiding key words that can be interpreted to be racist or sexist. Indeed, they were so racist and sexist that we couldn\'t even publish them! However, there are many other ways whereby you may be insulting your readers without using any specifically offensive words. Here are some of the major points. He / She / He/She??? The English language was crafted during a time when it was assumed by both writers and readers that any generic or unspecified gender would automatically default to male. As recently as the 1970s, it was acceptable for discussions of everything from deities to children to be a \"him.\" As our society has developed a more enlightened consideration for gender, the language has unfortunately not kept up with the times. Thus it is difficult to specify generic gender, as in the case of: \"When administering the medicine to your child, hold (his / her / his/her) hand.\" His/her is cumbersome, and the use of either gender can be deemed discriminatory. The only remotely suitable workaround is to phrase the content in the plural: \"When administering the medicine to your children, hold their hands.\" It\'s ugly and awkward, but there are no currently available suitable alternatives. Keep Language Positive Negative language must be avoided in all of your email marketing content. You especially have to be extremely careful about wording reminders so that they do not sound accusatory. Reminding a customer that they did not renew their subscription should never use terms such as \"you neglected to\" or \"you failed to,\" as well as any reference to \"your lack of response.\" It is much more acceptable to phrase these reminders in the form of a question, such as \"did you receive our reminder notice that your subscription is about to lapse?\" Leave the Pontification to the Pontiff It is easy to cross the line into pontification when instructing or educating your audience. Using terms such as \"you must,\" \"you have to,\" or \"do this\" implies that you are commanding rather than informing. That is an approach that is diametrically opposed to the preferable tactic. An email marketing campaign is no place for preaching, moralizing, lecturing or catechizing. Consider your readers as your peers and share information that you believe will be of interest without talking down to them. Shun overly technical or detailed data, but summarize your content in a simple, easy-to-grasp manner that portrays the respect you must have for your audience. Watch the Humor Email campaigns that are lightened by a fun sense of comedy can significantly outperform the dull and straight-laced, but it is very easy for satire to be taken the wrong way by some readers. Self-deprecating humor is also a double-edged sword: Some customers will interpret the attempt at self-zinging humor as a confession of your brand\'s incompetence. Under no circumstance should any national group or profession be singled out in your humor: Any of the old chestnuts about \"a lawyer, a doctor, and a priest are shipwrecked on a desert island\" or \"a Russian, a German, and an Italian walk into a bar\" should be left for Improv Night. Even an extremely minor aspect, such as the position of a hyphen, can change the meaning of a sentence to one that can be seen as offensive. A \"small-business owner\" is the proprietor of a small business, but a \"small business-owner\" is a proprietor who is shorter than average. Today more than ever it is imperative to go through each and every one of your email marketing messages with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that no aspect of the content could possibly offend or insult any one of its readers.


Read More
Keeping Your Email Marketing Text Neutral & Non-Offensive

Keeping Your Email Marketing Text Neutral & Non-Offensive

Beyond • October 28, 2010

Some may decry the advent of political correctness in our email marketing text, but it is nonetheless imperative to ensure that the content of your campaigns does not offend any group among its audience. Your text should strive to be fully neutral when it comes to ethnicity and demographic factors. Maintaining Gender Neutrality The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is holding fast to its \"Best Actress\" Oscars, but other awards, such as the Screen Actors Guild, have already graduated to \"Best Female Actor\" nominations. Your email marketing campaign content should always be strictly gender neutral as \"femalized\" terms are viewed as highly objectionable by a considerable percentage of your female audience. For example: actress, poetress, comedienne, heroine, executress and starlet are completely verboten. Instead, use gender-neutral terms such as actor, poet, comedian, hero, executor and star. Furthermore, Mrs. and Miss are generally seen as patronizing, thus the best way to address the female honorific is with the term Ms. Potential Slurs & Epithets No self-respecting, sane email marketers would use a racial epithet or ethnic slur in their content. Yes, there are many obvious \"street\" derogatory terms that are obviously offensive, wrong and need never be spoken nor written. However, there are also many terms that are considered derogatory by various groups, and they are surprisingly found commonly in articles and advertisements on major media. What are those potentially offensive words? We\'d rather not publish those either, but if you\'re unaware of them, perhaps a Google search might help you with terms to avoid or to exercise caution with when using. You might be surprised to find out that a seemingly harmless term to you has a very loaded meaning for someone else. Context Is the Key to Proper or Improper Usage In order to keep your email marketing content completely neutral and avoid unwittingly offending an ethnic or demographic group, you should very carefully analyze your usage in context of any of those potentially or sometimes offensive terms. Excise or change those terms if at all possible. Quite obviously, context is the key to the proper utilization of some terms, and some should just never be used whatsoever.


Read More