Phonetic Spelling and Personal Pronouns – Why Do We Do This?

13 March 2023
Image shows the phonetic spelling of the name Karen in white writing on a black background

We have supported the Race Equality Matters initiative Race Equality Week since launching Positive About Inclusion in 2020. In support of this year’s Race Equality Week (taking place from 6th until 10th February 2023), we’re joining the #MyNameIs campaign by adding the phonetic spelling of our names to our email footer and social media profiles.

Personal pronouns have been a part of our footers and profiles for some time and we have talked to people from lots of different organisations about why we do this and why it matters. When you share your personal pronouns, you are letting someone know how you would like them to refer to you. The majority of people use the pronoun sets such as ‘he/him’ or ‘she/her’ but there is an increasing number of people who use gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘they/them’ or ‘ze/hir’ (pronounced zee/here).

Sometimes people will ask why do this? For us, it’s important to send a signal and be an ally. You might assume that we are cisgender women who uses the pronouns she and her, and your assumption would be right. But we want everyone with whom we work or come into contact with to be confident that if they let us know what their personal pronouns are, we will respect that. That’s why we share our personal pronouns – to demonstrate allyship, provide a space for others to share theirs and by normalising the practice of sharing we are helping to build a more supportive and inclusive environment for everyone.

Something similar could be said about the phonetic spelling of names. The Race Equality Matters  #MyNameIs campaign makes a compelling argument:

The names we are given, agonised over by our parents, afraid of how it will affect us for the
rest of our lives, are part of our identities. It’s who we are as individuals. It is also a connection to family, culture, heritage and history.

Mistakes can be made, sometimes innocently or lazily. And we’ve probably all got examples we can recall of names of friends or colleagues being changed, shortened or anglicised for ‘convenience’. But what message does this send? It’s telling that person “You are not important, why should I take time and effort to learn your name?” But by getting it right you make someone feel accepted and comfortable, included and that they belong. It is an important part of mental and physical wellbeing, allowing them to flourish with a strong sense of self.

And again we hope that by sharing our names’ phonetic spelling, we will send a signal. The hope is that others seeing it will understand that pronouncing someone’s name correctly is important to us, if we make a mistake, we will be very happy to be told so and will work harder on getting it right!

Our names, like our pronouns are part of our identity, our names connect us to our culture, family and history, getting them right matters #MyNameIs.

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