The Power of Words
Published August 12th, 2020, updated February 1st, 2023
Summary - In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, companies are taking a step back to consider the language they use. Klipfolio is, too.
I’m a writer. I understand the power of words. I work at Klipfolio, a place that passionately embraces social causes and walks the walk when it comes to promoting inclusivity and championing cultural diversity. As a technical writer at Klipfolio, my choice of words represents our commitment to positivity and kindness.
These are volatile times. The Black Lives Matter movement that began in the US is building momentum worldwide, gaining global attention and support.
In response and solidarity many software companies are considering the language they use every day. Terms like ‘Whitelist’, ‘Blacklist’, and ‘Master’ - which legitimize and perpetuate racism - are being replaced by inoffensive versions, like ‘Allow List’, ‘Block List’, and ‘Main’.
At Klipfolio, we also took this time to self-reflect. Were we doing everything we could to help the cause for social equality? What did our language say about us? Did it represent who we are and what we believe?
Upon thoughtful reflection, we discovered some things we needed to change. Some of the terms we were using had negative connotations.
The word ninja has become a part of modern pop culture (think Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles and American Ninja Warrior). It’s seen by many companies as a ‘fun’ way to describe their in-house experts. But, many consider it to be cultural appropriation. Is there any benefit to using a term that could potentially offend your customers? There are many other fun, non-offensive ways to describe your company’s experts - wizards, artists, geniuses, just to name a few. At Klipfolio we updated all of our ninja references to ‘data heroes’. This speaks to our goal of guiding, educating, and helping our customers to better understand their data.
The word guru has also been appropriated and is commonly used to describe a company’s skilled mentors. This term is rooted in Buddhist and Hindu religions, where it refers to a spiritual leader. Using this term to help promote a product is seen by some as disrespectful. We changed ‘guru’ to ‘expert’, a word that well describes our knowledgeable Support Team members.
We’ve owned our mistakes and made changes. Our changes may seem minor or unnecessary to some but are meaningful to others. The journey up a mountain is made of many, many small steps. We are ready to climb that mountain. Want to join us?
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