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Hal Licino

Keeping Your Email Marketing Text Neutral & Non-Offensive

Oct 28 2010, 12:48 AM by

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.

Posted in Tips & Resources

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Nov 01 2010, 12:07 PM

I think what you're saying is correct but we have to be careful not to take all of our own character out of our e-mailings completely. It's a fine line

Roberts Howard

Nov 24 2010, 06:58 PM

What a drab and colorless world it will become if we follow that advice...advice so carefully walking on eggshells that refers the reader to Google for a list of potential slurs. This began with a sanctimonious rewriter named Bowdler, who found aspects of Sakespeare might be too frightening for young readers and set about to make it less offensive to young eyes. Thus was born the epithet, "to bowdlerize" the language. It appears that we have not progressed much since Bowdler's time. Perhaps we're getting even worse with silly locutions that refer to someone as a piece of furniture, a chair, rather than a chairman or a chairwoman. The question to ask is, do you have a problem being a member of a specific gender? Fortunately, 'pathetic' is still a gender-neutral word. Am I allowed to use a negative description of this advice and call it 'bad advice' or is that now verboten?

Andy from Bechmark Email

Dec 09 2010, 05:30 PM

R.H.- I am inclined to agree with you on this one. The original draft of this article included a list of offensive terms. Some of them were incredibly offensive, some were too ludicrous to be offensive. Including them would have detracted from the point of this post. Everything is not black and white. There is a gray area. How "PC" your email campaigns are depends on your audience. It is our job to make our users and readers think about their email content. This isn't a definitive, "do this" or "do that." Just a "be careful." For example, we offer Seasons Greetings email templates, as well as Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa. It's the users choice to decide which route they want to take.