Words Up: Inclusive Language
In 2020, Code and Theory made the decision to be a remote-first company. The ability to recruit globally led the agency to triple our headcount and diversity over the following two years. As a result, Code and Theory currently represents more cultures than ever before. Every Zoom meeting can easily include people across states, countries and time zones, and there’s always someone new to meet.
These truths led us to a feeling that our language mattered more than ever. We wanted to have more confidence in the ways language would land for this expanding group of global coworkers.
In order for this group to feel comfortable and empowered to thrive inside our diversifying community, we realized there were new layers of identity to be recognized and honored.We also recognized how much inclusive language should be a foundation for our work. As marketers and builders grounded in digital spaces, we help clients reach people all over the world, and it’s critical that language resonates in the right ways, in the right places. When brands use inclusive language, they invite communities in, grow their audiences and create brand love with consumers they may have failed to recognize in the past.
“When I learned that Code and Theory was building an Inclusive Design and Marketing Strategy discipline, I knew I couldn't miss the opportunity to be part of it. I’ve spent my 14 year career helping brands understand how their influence – combined with social impact and DEI initiatives – can create monumental change in our world…
…This impact is multiplied when digital and creative agencies like Code and Theory are guiding them. Once I began collaborating with the incredible teams at the agency, I knew I was in the right place, and the Inclusive Writing Guide is proof that agencies are positioned to help brands create incredible change in the world. There’s so much more to come.”
—Kirstyn Nimmo, Group Director, Inclusive Design & Marketing Strategy
We were unsure exactly what we were undertaking, but we all wanted to be a part of it. We considered the potential, possibilities and purposes of the information that was being compiled. How exactly would it influence internal and external communication? How would new language show up in our work, and what would be the hurdles to get it there?
I’ve been at C&T for what feels like an eon in this industry, and the agency has evolved a lot. But one thing that’s stayed steady is that there are no layers of permissions needed; our hierarchy doesn’t operate like that. In other words, if you have an idea, no one will really stop you from trying it. The copy crew wanted to explore and codify inclusive language, so we did. We weren’t sure where it would take us, but we couldn’t be more proud to be right here.
— Alison Hess, Group Creative Director
Our conversations began to shape a guide that began by acknowledging the beautiful and mercurial qualities of language itself.
We knew that whatever we committed to the page would be—and should be— subject to ongoing change. While some language has been banished from our cultural conversations, new phrases continually emerge as threads in our common lexicon. Sometimes the logic of what feels right at one moment unravels and dates itself over time because the context of language matters, along with the tone and the speaker.
These vantages and modalities triangulate to land in different ways at different times. Language also has origins, and they’re not always commonly known. We took the better part of a year to let it become what it is: a foundation. And our ongoing and collective work is to further it, to lean into the unsteady and continually explore.
Today, we are proud to share Code and Theory’s Inclusive Writing Guide with our industry and with the world. We call it “Words Up”, because we want to elevate our intentions with language but also keep it real. We hope it causes a ripple effect in how agencies help brands reach consumers, but also how we honor one another with language. As an agency, we are committed to implementing this knowledge into our work. It means lengthening character counts, expanding modules, rethinking casting, extending timelines and so much more—all so that our inclusive work is as thorough as possible. These shifts are worth it.
There is an opportunity for everyone to use language to mold a more equal world and we invite you to be part of this change.
To access the First Edition of Words Up, visit our Inclusive Design & Marketing page here.
Nikki Betuel - Senior Copywriter
Elaina Berkowitz - Copywriter
Dillon Diatlo - Senior Copywriter
Bryn Dodson - Creative Director, Copy
Olivia Dunn - Junior Copywriter
Sam Eisen - Writer + Associate Creative Director
Nick Francis - Creative Director
Emily Frei - Senior Copywriter
Genny Gonzalez - Senior Copywriter
Alison Hess - Group Creative Director
Leah Keiter - Copywriter
Kirby Kelly - Senior Copywriter
Yvette Kwakye - Senior Copywriter
Eric Lane - Creative Director, Copy
Renée Miller - Chief DEI Officer
Gina Moyer - Senior Art Director
Kirstyn Nimmo - Group Director, Inclusive Design & Marketing Strategy
Toria Rainey - Senior Copywriter
Gabby Rohland - Copywriter
Maggie Serota - Senior Copywriter
Amanda Theiler - Director of Production Design
My-Linh Tran - Senior Inclusive Marketing Strategist
Annie Wilkins - Associate Copy Director
Yiyi Yang - Junior Visual Designer
Code and Theory