Using Inclusive Language in Poetry

Words carry meaning.

Meaning that can be found in a dictionary, in history, in social dialogue, and in the mind of the reader. The main way people determine that meaning is by reading the context the word was used in. For poetry, it is clear that words are a part of the art and narrative of the poet's life experience. 

What this may miss is the experience of the reader and how those words may be read based on their world view. In order to better understand how your audience might interpret your words is to check it for non-inclusive langauge.  Non-inlusive language can range from gender assumptions, to mental health, to offensive phrases. 

In order to learn which words might carry a loaded meaning, there is a free Inclusive Language Tool that can help you check your poem. Grab your poems URL or if you are still writing it, add the text to the tool and submit to learn which words might be non-inclusive.



How it works

The Inclusivity Tool checks a URL or text you paste in and analyzes the text on the page. You’ll get warnings for any language on the page that could be considered offensive, as well as alternative language to use in its place. 

The open source database that started this tool with is called alex. The folks at have compiled this database of non-inclusive language based on resources written and shared by inclusive communication professionals, but community members are also able to send in suggestions or requests to keep the database current. Whole Whale, a nonprofit focused digital agency, then invested in deeper research on increasing this list to over 800 terms including context to help people learn more.

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