Why Language Matters and Why It’s Changing: A Tech Perspective

John Poulos
November 10, 2021

Words matter. While it is extremely likely that we have all heard this expression before, now more than ever, examining their impact on every aspect of our daily lives is of the utmost importance. From the workplace to our friendships, as well as everyday interactions, how we communicate is critical to ensuring a well-being society and creating necessary change.

In recent decades, the Internet has allowed us to connect faster and more broadly than in the past, and as NAF staff, we strongly believe we have a responsibility to consider the language we use daily, so that we may avoid any terminology that is inaccurate or linked to negative historical or cultural connotations.

At the heart of our network is our young people and we must always return to addressing the issues they are most affected by in their day-to-day activities. Words have enormous power and can be inclusive or exclusive — making it vital to not only possess the right vocabulary, but to feel prepared to have “courageous conversations” in our schools, businesses, and communities. Through this work, we can prioritize that inclusion, diversity, equity, and access are at the forefront of organizational choices and strategies.

That goes for NAF’s Tech Team too. It’s not all ones and zeroes in this (virtual) corner of NAF Headquarters, and we have also spent time doing an internal audit, to determine if the phrases we have been using require a refresh.

For example, we have identified a few jargons that we feel should be replaced in our lexicon and are working to remove them from our business vernacular by the end of 2021. We previously referred to some pieces of hardware, as “master” and “slave” hard drives and no longer do that. On the web development side, we are also renaming our “master” code branch to “main”, and we will no longer put suspicious emailers on our “blacklist”– we will simply refer to it as our list of “not allowed”.

Not all cases necessarily have insensitive origins, and one might have honest disagreements about specific terms and whether they are offensive, outdated, or imprecise. Taking the time to assess how we interrelate is so important and a direct reflection of an organization’s core values that often guide the framework for decision-making. It’s a very small step towards a more conscientious world, but the most significant journeys begin with small steps.

For more on this topic, please see additional resources below:

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John has been a web developer for over 20 years. He has been with NAF since 2017 and is part of our Tech Team, which works on the Academy Support Hub and NAFTrack Certification, among other projects.

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