Norm-Critical Writing

LGBTQ FactsRFSLPhoto: Mathilda Piehl

Norm-critical and LGBTQ inclusive writing is not hard. Here are some tips.

The norm-critical perspective is important if you want all readers to feel included and addressed. In order to achieve that it’s important that you, the writer, have reflected upon your own values and what your expectations of the reader are. Don’t assume that the reader has specific attributes.

Stay away from expressions such as “normal”, since it can be perceived as meaning that other people are abnormal. Rather, write “common” or explain in another way that is easy to understand without seeming judgemental.

Avoid talking about gender or describing and labelling people according to gender if it’s not relevant. Also, don’t base your writing on differences between genders or how common or uncommon something is in different groups, if it’s not an important point you want to make to the reader.

Be aware of different norms that can be read between the lines. Don’t presume that the reader:

  • is heterosexual
  • has a partner
  • is a cis-person
  • has a certain color
  • is born or raised in Sweden
  • knows about your city or part of town
  • is of a certain faith
  • wants to have or can have children
  • has two parents or parents with different genders
  • lives with or has grown up with their biological parents
  • doesn’t have a physical or psychiatric disability
  • has a certain financial situation or lifestyle

Ze

Ze is an inclusive pronoun for people who don’t want to identify via gender. Ze is also a practical pronoun when gender is irrelevant or unknown.

If you want to avoid writing she, he or ze, addressing the reader as “you” can be a good alternative. It also gives the text a personal and direct tone. In some cases, however, it can be perceived as too personal if the text is about a sensitive subject. Then “one” can be an alternative even if it can be perceived as passive and distancing.

LGBTQ in text

There are a few things to think about when you write about LGBTQ. How is LGBTQ described? Does it create a clear “us and them”? What consequences can that have? The same goes for how homosexuals, bisexuals, trans people and queers are described. Make a comparison of how the text would be perceived if you changed L, G, B, T or Q to heterosexual or another category of people.

Inclusion in images

Some general things to think about regarding pictures are:

  • Are images of same-sex couples being used?
  • Are there images of people who break the cis-norm?
  • Are the images respectful and have the people portrayed approved the usage of the pictures?