Better framing of inclusive writing is better, says expert
Inclusive writing has been gaining ground in universities for several years, although its practice is encouraged and not required.
A better framework for inclusive writing would be preferable to ensure consistency between the desire of university institutions to encourage this practice and the methods of evaluation determined by teachers. This question resurfaced recently when two students from UQAM received exam corrections discouraging inclusive writing, although UQAM is in favor of its use.
“Beacons are already identified by the Guide that exists at UQAM,” says Isabelle Plante, full professor of didactics at the university and holder of the Canada Research Chair on gender differences at school. “Inclusive writing does not mean writing as one wants, but rather demonstrates a sensitivity towards gender equality and a desire for inclusion. For the moment, it is free for the different departments and professors to use it and there is no official training established. So the correction is subject to different interpretations by different people.”
However, according to her, it would be preferable for the responsibility of providing training, or a minimum of information on inclusive writing, to fall to the institution, to avoid discrepancies and thus limit unconscious bias during corrections.
“Correcting assistants do not always recognize the validity of inclusive writing and are not always aware of the wounds that certain words can cause to those who have begun a process of reflection. A little training on inclusive writing for proofreaders offered by the university could have prevented such a situation, as well as a reminder of the application of the various guides.
She adds that inclusive writing has spread rapidly in recent years and that it is difficult for many to follow the norms of its use, explaining the gaps between norms and practice. “In defense of proofreaders and auxiliaries, we didn't talk about genres, let alone in writing, a few years ago. But we're talking about it more today and we have to keep up.”
A growing practice
On the faculty side, inclusive writing does not lead to additional difficulties in correcting spelling. It’s more in terms of uniformity in the texts that its use is problematic.
“As in any new thing, there is a necessary learning curve, and you have to understand why and where it comes from,” explains Isabelle Plante.
What teachers are looking for is consistency throughout the text. If the student chooses neutral writing, all his text must reflect this choice, but beyond this issue, inclusive writing does not complicate the task of correcting.
Isabelle Plante, full professor of didactics and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Gender Differences at School
Since the French language is constantly evolving, it is likely that policies or standards governing inclusive writing will be adopted at the primary and secondary levels within the next few years. The Office québécoise de la langue française (OQLF) has a policy on this subject, which influences the adoption of this practice at all school levels.
“I have the impression that it will be taught in schools in the next few years, the progress is so rapid. Currently, the OQLF has a policy of inclusive writing and new spelling, and it is certain that the programs at the elementary and secondary levels will adapt to these new realities.”
Since December 2021, the Culture and Inspiration sections of Métro use inclusive writing in their publications. It is to be wondered if its use will spread more in the media and newspapers in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec.