#176: How to Use Conscious Language in Content Creation, with Crystal Shelley

Listeners, I need your help! Please contribute to an upcoming episode: Email me a voice memo of you describing a specific marketing tactic you did that landed you a client. Provide your name and helpful details of what you did that might have been unique or persistent that worked in securing new work. Email it to me at melanie@meledits.com to be considered for a future episode that will include tips from other listeners. Thank you!

Today’s episode is from my other podcast, Association Station, where I interview people who work at and with membership associations about a topic related to content, publishing and media. 

Many of the Association Station episodes may be relevant to your work too since the main focus is creating strong content. But today’s episode, in particular, is relevant for anyone who creates content — this conversation can help us both in the content we create for our freelance business and the content we create for our clients. We can also learn how to be advocates for less harmful, more aware and more conscious language.  

Today’s guest is Crystal Shelley, of Salt Lake City. Crystal is the owner of Rabbit with a Red Pen. She edits fiction and is an authenticity reader. Drawing on her background as a social worker, she unites her love of language and passion for social justice by pushing for writing and representation that’s more dignified, intentional, and just.

Crystal is the creator of the Conscious Language Toolkits for Editors and Writers — these toolkits are fantastic resources. 

Crystal also serves on the board of ACES: the Society for Editing and is an instructor for the Editorial Freelancers Association. 

In this episode, we talk about: 

  • What “conscious language” is, a term coined by Karen Yin, who also created the Conscious Style Guide.
  • What the difference between “conscious language” and “inclusive language” is.
  • Why using conscious language — and critically assessing the language we use — in our content is important. 
  • Style guides are just that: guides. The primary ones, such as the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style, don’t always reflect the most updated and conscious language or the accepted language of a particular group. 
  • Some pitfalls when editing and striving for conscious language.
  • How we can advocate for using more conscious language with clients. 
  • How we and our clients can respond to readers who criticize using “woke” or “politically correct” language or content. 
  • Why everyone should embrace and use “singular they” in their content. 
  • How to think about which words to use when identifying people by race and ethnicity. 
  • What ableism and ableist language is and how incredibly prevalent it is in our society.  
  • What “inspiration porn” is and why not to write so-called “inspiring” stories of people with disabilities. 
  • What an “authenticity reader” or “sensitivity reader” is and how we can use these experts to avoid stereotypes and harming readers. 


Style Guides:

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