What We Say Matters: Inclusive Language in Multifamily

Posted By: Stephanie Anderson Articles, Industry Trends,

Upon my recent review of hundreds of apartment community websites across the US, I was shocked with the choice of common verbiage used. While not intentional, the words used to describe a community, their amenities and features could be defined as discriminatory and non-inclusive.

I found one common mistake in many communities located in urban areas where the term “walking” was used when describing locality 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.

The language associated with gender, disabilities, age, class, size, Indigenous Peoples, racial, ethnic, and religious identity can be sensitive and is always changing 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, so starting small can still have a big 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.

In addition, encouraging the use of personal pronouns while incorporating gender neutral language are first steps to consider. 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 helps to resonate with more audiences to create a sense of belonging for all. This opens the opportunity for more prospective residents and even potential employees. I challenge you to embrace a culture that practices sensitivity for all.

Stephanie Anderson is the Senior Director, Content Strategy Manager, at Grace Hill. With almost 15 years of property management experience, Anderson brings a wealth of knowledge specializing in revenue management, creative marketing and employee development. She was NAAEI’s 2015 Designate of the Year and CAM of the Year in 2013. She is a powerhouse speaker that shares her industry knowledge, motivates professionals to greater success and disrupts status quo with out of the box ideas and trends. She is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University where she majored in English Literature and Women’s Studies. She holds a Virginia Real Estate License and is certified as a National Instructor for NAAEI.