Monzo banishes the "elephant in the room" and "blacklist" from staff speak

By John Reynolds on Tuesday 25 February 2020

Digital Banking

The digital bank has updated its "tone of voice" guide to be more inclusive.

Monzo banishes the
Image source: Sheree Atcheson, Monzo's Head of Diversity and Inclusion.

It is the bank loved by millennials so it will likely come as no surprise that Monzo is keen not to alienate a generation labelled the most 'woke' generation yet.

The digital bank has updated its "tone of voice" guide, so as to ensure its staff and customers don’t feel upset by an ill-chosen phrase in an email or excessive use of emojis.

The guide, published on the Monzo website, offers its employees—whose average age is 28—an overview of how they should write and speak internally as well as communicating publicly.

In the latest version, Monzo has cautioned its employees against using words including "blacklist" (which is a term used to describe organisations suspected or convicted of fraudulent, illegal or criminal activity) and "whitelist" (a list used to describe individuals or organisations with a clean history of making payments on time).

Instead, Monzo employees are told to substitute "whitelist" with the word “allowlist” and “blacklist” is to be replaced with the word “blocklist”.

The reason for substituting the words, said Monzo, is because of the "origin of these terms with white being seen as ‘good’ and black being seen as ‘bad.’"

In its new version, Monzo has also warned its staff against using colloquial expressions like "ain't" and "gonna" and idioms like "elephant in the room", which it says "might be harder for people from different culture, or people with English as a second language, to understand".

"So if there's a clearer way to explain an idea, that’s what we should use. And if someone uses a word or phrase you're not familiar with, it’s best to ask them to explain!" Monzo added.

“You'll be helping them learn to be more inclusive in their communication and helping any other people reading or listening who might also be struggling to understand."

Monzo's Head of Diversity and Inclusion Sheree Atcheson tweeted on 18 February that the guidance had been updated.

Further guidance offered to Monzo employees includes on their use of emojis, which are to be used to "add context, not replace words".

"Emojis are best when they add a little extra flavour to what we're saying. They help clarify what we mean, and let our personality shine," Monzo added.

According to the guide, addressing a mixed-sex group as "guys" is also a no-no.

"Obviously there’s no place for anything racist, sexist or derogatory, but it goes beyond that too," Monzo said.

"For example, it’s pretty common to address a group of people as ‘guys’, even if there are women in the group—but we think ‘hey folks’, ‘hello everyone’ or ‘hey y’all’ is more inclusive."

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