Writing Inclusive Copy for the Holidays

Happy holidays! This is a season of jollity and generosity, and that’s why it’s so important that your copy is inclusive for all your customers. Here’s how to make sure you don’t leave anyone out of the festivities.

The holidays provide us with an opportunity for inclusive copy.

Tis’ the season for spreading holiday cheer—and that includes writing stellar holiday copy. Copywriters are decking the halls with ads, newsletters, and social media campaigns. But it’s easy to fall into writing copy that emphasizes some holidays at the expense of others. Your customers are diverse, and they don’t all celebrate the same way. For those looking to reach culturally diverse audiences, inclusive copy strategies are crucial. Before you click send on this year’s season’s greetings, let’s consider a few ways to make your copy more inclusive.

Choose holiday phrases that everyone can celebrate.

December is a month of many holidays—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and more. When addressing a customer, a client, or a colleague, it’s best not to assume their cultural background—or even that they observe any holidays at all. But that doesn’t mean you can’t share your warm wishes for the winter solstice. Many people have time off of work on federal holidays, and there are universal themes of generosity, peace, and goodwill that most everyone can agree on.

Whether your reader is observing New Year’s or Festivus (yes, the Seinfeld holiday for “the rest of us”), replacing holiday-specific language with universal greetings is an easy and effective way to respect and celebrate diversity. Here are a few examples of phrases that include everyone in the fun, without reference to any single holiday:

  • Happy Holidays
  • Season’s greetings
  • Warm wishes for the New Year
  • Happy New Year
  • Best wishes for the New Year
  • Here’s to a happy 2023!
  • Have a joyous season

Learn why the best return on your marketing dollar comes from copywriting.

Use gender-inclusive language.

Another inclusive copy tip to keep in mind year-round is the implementation of gender-inclusive language. It’s easy to replace gendered pronouns like “he/she” and “his/her” with they and their in any scenario. Likewise, you can replace gendered nouns like husband and wife with inclusive words like spouse or partner.

Beyond gendered nouns and pronouns, be on the lookout for unnecessary mentions of gender. This could be a construction sign that reads “MEN WORKING” or a job application for “doorman” that could read “doorkeeper.” Style guidelines vary for every brand, but regardless it’s helpful to be aware of gender as it appears throughout the English language. When in doubt? Swap it out. 

Consider context and representation with imagery.

Picture this: you’ve written a cheerful, inclusive holiday newsletter, and now all it needs is the perfect greeting card image. What will you choose? Images of evergreen trees may denotatively mean a lot of different things on their own, but when paired with a seasonal greeting, one thing immediately leaps to mind: Christmas. That might feel exclusionary. Consider context and connotations when you combine inclusive copy with images and design.

For example, every year Starbucks releases a new seasonal cup design and a marketing campaign to go along with it. In 2015, Starbucks released what was arguably their most inclusive cup yet: a simple red design. (To be fair, red is still associated with Christmas, but it could just as easily be the red color of New Year’s Eve fireworks.) The cup didn’t include any holiday images, which sparked controversy from critics, but certainly got a lot of people talking about Starbucks. Since then, they have continued to opt for holiday non-specific imagery. 

Imagery also goes beyond the snowy stock photo that you choose to accompany your “Happy Holidays!” post. It includes the images that you create with storytelling. Stories of leaving out cookies, lighting candles, or sharing gifts, are all specific holiday traditions that don’t apply to everyone. As you craft narratives, look for themes that resonate with diverse audiences. Expand your stories to include people, places, things, food, and festivities that might be underrepresented. Diversity is important, and it’s something to celebrate in writing.

Wine tourism got copy with just the right notes

The Austrian Tourist Board (ATO) was planning to launch a major campaign across New York City—aimed at promoting the country’s delicious wines. But before the ATO could get started, it needed help with copy, including a 12-page brochure, a postcard, an insert, and more. With just one month to drum up publicity, MarketSmiths had to work fast, partnering with MST Creative, a restaurant PR firm, to spread the word on Austria’s many tipples. Our successes speak for themselves: 14 New York restaurants featured Austrian Wine Month, while the event quickly appeared in Zagat, Time Out, and Village Voice, to name just a few.

> Read the full case study here

Check your conscious and unconscious biases. 

If your New Year’s resolution is to commit to more inclusive copy, the most important thing you can do is work to understand your own biases. Some of these you may be aware of, but others may be unconscious. 

Maybe you love your mom’s holiday meal recipe, and you know you’ll never want to try anyone else’s. That’s a conscious bias. But the more tricky aspect of checking your biases is discovering your unconscious biases. These are beliefs that we learn unintentionally, which we may not be aware of. Relevant for our purposes, you might gravitate to red and green holiday color schemes if you grew up with an affinity for Christmas.

Sometimes biases can be harmless, like when we’re rooting for our favorite sports teams or trying to figure out what city has the best bagels. But other times, our unchecked biases can be the source of exclusionary language. As you’re writing, ask yourself: how do your experiences and beliefs inform how you speak to your audience? Don’t assume that anyone views holidays the same way as you. Assume a diversity of views and experiences, and adjust your copy accordingly. 

No one is perfectly unbiased, and we can all work to be more aware of how we write, and to who we write. Context matters. Connotation matters. Words matter. On holidays, and on all of the other days, too.

At MarketSmiths, we choose our words carefully. Ask us about our human approach to copywriting.

Kelly Bachman

Kelly Bachman

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