At Intuit, everything we do begins with people. Using inclusive language isn’t about being politically correct or trying not to offend someone. It’s about being culturally sensitive, respecting people’s identities, and reducing harm.
Our company values are grounded in putting people first. We’re Stronger Together when we treat our customers and colleagues with dignity and respect—and that includes the words we use when we talk to and about them.
Question what you think is "normal"
“Normal” is a construct manufactured to align with Eurocentric society. It’s important to confront and challenge what you consider “normal” or typical to create inclusive design.
Some parts of identity are based on biology, while others emerge because of society. We’re all shaped by many different things—gender, race, class, sexual orientation, religion, ability, age, and so on. That means people can experience multiple forms of discrimination and oppression at the same time.
Challenge your assumptions and biases about what you consider normal or typical. And keep the biggest assumption in mind—assume the work begins with you.
Lead with curiosity and empathy
Words help us make sense of the world we live in. Our language reflects our origins and life experiences. Examining the way we communicate with each other isn’t always easy. But when we embrace different perspectives with curiosity and empathy, we make that discomfort temporary while we learn. It also pushes us to ensure visibility and create space for others to lead.
If you’re questioning a word or phrase, there’s likely a reason for it. Lean into your curiosity to look into its origins. If a word is unclear or potentially harmful, choose clear, direct language instead. Remember: metaphors can sometimes obscure meaning rather than communicate it.
If you’re not sure how someone identifies and you think they'd be comfortable talking with you about it, ask and describe them that way going forward. Keep in mind that some people may not want to self-identify, and be sensitive to that. Consider what info is really necessary.
Intuit has Employee Resource Groups with many resources and members who can give feedback and help you build empathy.
Don’t assume there’s one way to identify a group of people, or how one person identifies is representative of an entire group. For example, some people of Latin origin prefer Latinx as an inclusive descriptor, but others may prefer a different term.
Be gracious with yourself and others. Nobody has all the answers. Learning about each other and how to describe people with respect is an ongoing endeavor. You may not always get it right, but continue to listen and do the work.
Don’t dwell in your discomfort. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable, but see it as an opportunity to ask yourself why with genuine curiosity.
- folks, everyone, team, friends, peeps
Be inclusive in your greetings and avoid unnecessarily gendered language.
- guys, dudes, bro, chicks
- sir, ma'am
Don’t assume local slang is comfortable for everybody. If you greet a group of people with “hey guys,” does everyone you're addressing identify as male?
And not everyone is a sir or ma’am. While many folks were raised to use those terms as a form of politeness, it’s OK to just use someone’s name when addressing them.
Include diversity in your content
Intuit products are for everyone, regardless of age, race, sex (including pregnancy and childbirth), gender identity and expression, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, military/veteran status, and physical or mental disabilities. Our content should reflect that.
What’s your default when designing? What names, family structures, and illustrations are you using? Who are you representing?
Be thoughtful about what you’re writing. Examine who’s in the picture and who’s out. Your designs should be inclusive of everyone.
Expand beyond Western culture. If you use examples, what types of names are you using? What type of family structure? If you’re using an illustration, who is represented in that illustration? More importantly, who is left out?
Don’t use only cisgender or white-dominant cultural examples. Examine what you default to when designing and actively seek to widen your purview. For more guidance, check out our resources.
Use names and examples that reflect a variety of ethnicities, genders, and pronouns. If you’re stuck, Intuit has a Name in Lights program where you can use Intuit employee names as part of sample data or fictitious examples.
Don’t use only Westernized, generic names like John Smith or Jane Doe. Our customers live all over the globe and should see themselves reflected in our content.
Be thoughtful about the imagery that supports your content. Work with your design partner. If your content uses text or imagery to depict people in certain occupations or settings, include a variety of ethnicities, genders, ages, body types, and abilities.
Don’t change content if you receive feedback that reinforces bias. It’s important to stay true to our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion no matter what feedback you receive.
This isn’t a complete list—just because something isn’t here doesn’t mean it’s OK.
If you’re not sure about something, ask and don’t publish. There are people and resources at Intuit (such as our Employee Resource Groups) willing to help. We can all work together to make sure content is diverse, inclusive, and representative of all our customers.
Only ask for info we really need
The content decisions we make are powerful. Labels, fields, and other microcopy may be small, but they're important and affect the overall customer journey.
Our customers’ product experiences don’t change based on their identity. This means we don't need to ask for personal info that doesn’t affect how customers use a product.
Gender, age, ethnicity, race
It’s OK to collect this info for government forms or to meet other compliance requirements. Consider including a “why we need this” tooltip. This reassures customers that we have a legitimate reason for asking. (Understanding demographics for marketing purposes is typically not one.) In general, you shouldn’t need to mention these things unless they’re relevant to what customers are doing.
If you ask customers to identify their ethnicity and race, consider asking the questions separately. For racial identity, let customers select as many options as they want.
Titles and forms of address
If you’re designing a form field or an email, ask yourself why you need to include a title (Mr, Mrs, Ms, and so on). How is the info relevant? Should that be the first thing we ask customers?
From a voice and tone perspective, we rarely use titles to address our customers, so we shouldn’t need them at all. If you do have a valid reason for collecting the info, be sure to include a gender-neutral option (Mx), and make the field optional.
Watch out for outdated terms
As we learn more about how we talk about people, we learn that some terms used in the past just don’t cut it anymore. Most of those terms aren’t clear and don’t put people first.
People-first language is different from identity-first language in that it describes the person before the disability, condition, or diagnosis. For example, we’ve learned to use terms like disabled or person with a disability over crippled, handicapped, or insane. These terms are generally considered outdated, vague, and dehumanizing.
- person who is divorced
- disabled, person with a disability
- older person
- person who uses a wheelchair
- person diagnosed with a mental health condition
- confidence check
- transgender, trans
- adopted parent
- grandfather clause
- Indian (unless referring to country)
- crippled, handicapped
- wheelchair-bound, confined to a wheelchair
- crazy, insane, psycho
- sanity check
- transgendered, transvestite
A big caveat to this is that not everyone prefers person-first language or newer terms. For example, some people prefer:
- Deaf or Hard of Hearing over hearing impaired or person who is Deaf.
- Disabled over differently abled, special needs, handicapable, or other euphemistic terms
- Latino or Latina over Latinx
Don't assume. Ask, listen, and learn.
Like many language decisions, context is key. Idioms may be conversational, but they’re not always easily translatable or understood. Some idiomatic expressions can be OK, like “Let’s take a look” or “I see what you mean”. Everyone sees—some using their hands, some with their eyes. It’s the brain that allows us to see.
But most of the time idioms can be an opportunity to be clearer with your language.
For example, “See more” as a CTA could be less vague. The active verb options (like “Show more”) describe what the action really is.
Use gender-neutral language
We communicate to customers in the second person (you), and when we refer to other people, we use third person and keep our language gender neutral, including pronouns. Don’t assume that the accountant, tax expert, or other financial professional is a he.
If you find yourself in the awkward spot where the subject’s gender is unknown, write your way around it. Don’t use she/he, s/he, they or them, or one. If you absolutely can’t write your way around it, then it’s OK to use they, them, or their.
When we write about a person, use the pronouns they go by. When in doubt, use the person’s name.
In some instances, we ask users to select a gender for themselves or an employee. Unless a specific state or federal regulation requires a binary choice, present these three options:
Don't use “Other” as an option by itself. You’re other-ing an entire group of people.
To comply with tax regulations, in TurboTax we ask for a dependent’s gender. We don’t ask for the gender of the taxpayer or their spouse.
Inclusive gender-neutral alternatives
Avoid unnecessarily gendered language. There are other ways to be gender neutral and inclusive:
- distinguished guests
- developers (more specific)
- ladies and gentlemen
- boys and girls
- brothers and sisters
These neutral choices might not be possible in other languages, but try to be as inclusive as possible when you can.
- If you add users, their dashboard looks different from yours.
- Add an accountant so you can work together in QuickBooks.
- Give developers their own web space for uploads.
- Managed users get their own user ID and password.
- If you add a user, his or her dashboard will look different from yours.
- Add an accountant so she/he can work with you in QuickBooks.
- Add an accountant so they can work with you in QuickBooks.
- Give each developer his own web space for uploads.
- One has one’s own web spaces for uploads.
- Each managed user gets his/her own user ID and password.
- Each managed user gets their own user ID and password.
Gender neutrality and inclusivity in other languages
French, Portuguese, Spanish, and the other Romance languages are gender-oriented. This means that there are (almost) no neutral alternatives for nouns and pronouns.
To write in a more inclusive and gender-neutral way, follow the Intuit guidelines and try to write around gender whenever possible.
A few examples in Portuguese
Welcome will be translated into “Bem-vindo”, which is the masculine form. There’s no neutral way to say “welcome” in Portuguese. Try to write something like “It’s good to have you here” or “We’re glad you’re here.” It’s longer but is a nice way to be gender-neutral and inclusive at the same time.
When possible, omit gender-specific pronouns.
Replace third person (she/he) with second person pronoun (you).
Replace adjectives for neutral alternatives, such as indefinite adjectives, substantives, or objects.
Inclusive storytelling from AP Stylebook
Inclusive Language Guidelines by the American Psychological Association
The Diversity Style Guide by San Francisco State University
Disability Language Style Guide by the National Center on Disability and Journalism
Inclusive language glossary from Writer
Understanding Ableism (Degreed pathway for Intuit employees)