Being Inclusive across Microsoft 365

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Words are important.

Let’s start with a definition of what is meant by being Inclusive…

According to Oxford… “The practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of minority groups.”

According to me… “Awareness when creating content to ensure it doesn’t contain any bias toward age, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”

Do you make your Office content and communications inclusive? If not, why not? Now’s a great time to start. Current capabilities across Microsoft 365 go well beyond spellchecking and grammar these days. In addition to having inclusiveness checks, I’m also starting to see AI capabilities across many of the tools in the Microsoft stack. These enhanced features help us be more productive while, at the same time, keep our content inclusive!

I started to think about places across the Microsoft 365 tool suite where inclusiveness is built-in. This post lists the places I know of at the time of this writing. As I learn of more features, I’ll add them to the post…

A helpful start…

“Microsoft technology reaches every part of the globe, so it’s critical that all our communications are inclusive and diverse.”                    -Microsoft

Microsoft provides some guidelines for writing bias-free communication and it includes numerous examples of phrases to use and what not to use.

Having trouble coming up with the right term to convey respect to all people and promote equal opportunity? Check out the Accessibility terms where you’ll see lots of examples of terms to use:

Accessibility Terms

Inclusiveness features in Microsoft 365

1 – Microsoft Word Inclusiveness

I recently came across a great feature in Microsoft Word to help make document content inclusive. Perhaps this feature has been around for awhile, but since I was unaware of it, I can only assume there are a few others out there who also weren’t.

Under the writing style within Options, there’s several ways you can make your document more inclusive:

Microsoft Word: Select File… Options… Proofing… Writing Style… select Grammar & Refinements… Settings

Word options

From here, select all checkboxes in the Inclusiveness section to ensure your writing is inclusive.

Word options


When a word is detected violating these categories, the word will be underlined with a list of suggested replacements. For example, with this enabled, Word will suggest changing words like manpower to workforce OR whitelist to allowed list.

Word example


2 – Making Content Accessible

Making your content accessible is another way of being inclusive. There are several ways to make content accessible so people with disabilities can consume your content. Two key settings I always enable to help are both found in PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and Outlook under:

  • PowerPoint/Word/Excel: File… Options… Ease of Access
  • Outlook: File… Options… Mail… Editor Options… Ease of Access

The first setting will remind you about accessibility issues by keeping the accessibility checker running while you work.

Keep accessibility checker running

Once enabled, you will see the current accessibility status in the Status bar…

Accessibility checker

The second setting (PowerPoint, Word, Outlook) will automatically add alternate text to pictures in your content to make them accessible for people with vision impairments. I can’t stress enough how important this is – imagine for 1 moment how difficult it would be if you couldn’t see the pictures in a document or presentation you were giving! (You can always override the alternate text if required)

Automatic alt text

If, at any time, you want to check the accessibility of your entire document or presentation, click Review… Check Accessibility from the toolbar.

Check Accessibility

3 – PowerPoint Presenter Coach

Presenter Coach is a helpful coaching tool you can use in-private to catch things like speaking too fast, too many filler words like ummms and ahhhs, euphemisms, and reading your slides, but it also checks for culturally sensitive terms and inclusive language. In fact, it will notify you in real-time if it detects a non-inclusive word.

Similar to the examples I gave above in the Microsoft Word inclusiveness setting, if you were to say manpower during your presentation, you would be prompted “on screen” to use another word that is inclusive.

After your presentation is done, you will  be able to view a report that includes suggestions for improvements!

Requirements: PowerPoint Online or PowerPoint for Android, and you must be signed in with a Microsoft Account.

4 – Communication Compliance

It’s one thing to ensure our Office documents are inclusive, but what about the informal part of communication in an organization? Communication Compliance is a relatively new feature in Microsoft 365 that is part of the new Insider Risk solution set and it does just that!

It monitors outbound and inbound communication across Exchange email, Microsoft Teams chats, standard and private channels (and their attachments), Skype for Business conversations, and 3rd-party platform communications (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.). It will automatically detect, capture, and alert reviewers of inappropriate communication across these channels based on policies you define.

These policies can detect, among other things, threats, profanity, and targeted harassment and help organizations act on code of conduct violations across their communication channels.

I’ve previously blogged about this feature here: A Communication Compliance Walk-thru


Although technology can’t fix everything – it can help make our content more inclusive. One word at a time…

If you know of other tools within the Microsoft 365 suite of products, leave a comment and I’ll include it in this post!

Thanks for reading.


Credit: Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

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