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Google Docs goes woke with 'inclusive' language feature — will bombard users with suggestions when 'ableist' or 'gendered' language is used

ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images

Google Docs will roll out a new feature this year prompting users to be more inclusive by suggesting alternatives to "ableist" and "unnecessarily gendered" language.

According to Fox Business, the feature will be introduced as a part of Smart Canvas, a new collaboration tool in Google Workspace designed to make Docs, Sheets, and Slides more "flexible and connected."

What are the details?

While unveiling Smart Canvas at a conference in Mountain View, California, Tuesday, Google general manager Javier Soltero, who oversees Google Workspace, presented what some of the language prompt changes will look like.

One example, which he shared during the conference, demonstrated how Google's revamped assisted writing capabilities would suggest a user change the word "chairman" to "chair" or "chairperson."

In an updated Google developer "inclusive documentation" style guide, the software company previews several other hypothetical suggestions it will make, including changing entire sentences.

If a user writes the sentence, "Before launch, give everything a final sanity-check," Google will suggest writing, "Before launch, give everything a final check for completeness and clarity," instead.

Similarly, if a user writes, "There are some crazy outliers in the data," Google will advise going with, "There are some baffling outliers in the data."

The new assisted writing capabilities will also take aim at gender-exclusive language. The style guide recommends writing "Equipment installation takes around 16 person-hours to complete" rather than "Equipment installation takes around 16 man-hours to complete."

"When trying to achieve a friendly and conversational tone, problematic ableist language might slip in," the style guide explains. "This can come in the form of figures of speech and other turns of phrase."

"Be sensitive to your word choice, especially when aiming for an informal tone," the guide continues. "Ableist language includes words or phrases such as crazy, insane, blind to or blind eye to, cripple, dumb, and others. Choose alternative words depending on the context."

As for gender-inclusive language, the style guide advises that "in addition to being mindful of the pronouns used in narrative examples," users should "be sensitive to other possible sources of gendered language."

What else?

The style guide also recommends users not be "too culturally specific to the US" and to be "mindful when referring to specific holidays."

Furthermore, it advises users to "avoid referring to people in divisive ways" and "avoid using socially-charged terms for technical concepts where possible."

As examples, Google recommends users avoid "referring to people as native speakers or non-native speakers of English" and avoid using terms "such as blacklist, native feature, and first-class citizen, even though these terms might still be widely used."

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