MICROSOFT has introduced an "inclusivity checker" to its operating system that, in a similar way to a spellchecker, seeks out “socioeconomic bias” in text.


A bias checker?

The new invention is essentially an “inclusivity checker”, a souped-up spellchecker for the latest version of Office 365 that offers users politically correct alternatives to terms it picks up on and perceives to be “problematic”.


Problematic in what way?

Phrases the checker feels might be potentially offensive to people based on age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender.


More than the average spellchecker then?

Microsoft Windows is the dominating operating system worldwide as of December, with a share of more than 70 per cent of the market across tablets, consoles and desktops and has long offered a function to check spelling, punctuation and grammar across its suite of programmes, but this is indeed taking it to another level.



It recommends replacing terms such as “blacklist” and “whitelist” with “accepted list” or “allowed list” and also suggests using “postal worker” instead of “postman”. It sees Neil Armstrong's iconic moon-landing quote, “one giant leap for mankind” as being improved by changing it to “one giant leap for humankind” or “humanity”.


Any others?

Changing “dancer” to “performing artist”, “headmaster” to “principal”, “mistress” to “lover”, “manpower” to “workforce” and “master” to “expert”. And if you are going back in history and writing about, for example, Mrs Thatcher, it suggests calling her “Ms”.


How does it work?

When activated, spelling mistakes are underlined in red, grammatical errors in blue and “problematic” words with a purple line. The next step is up to the user.


What’s it all about?

Microsoft said in a statement that it “understands that not every Editor suggestion may be suitable for all users and all scenarios”, adding: “That’s why we let users be in control of their final output. Editor is a completely optional tool that users can turn on or off at any point. Editor does not make any autocorrections. The user has control over which suggestions they choose to use, if any. They will be able to turn on and off each one of them individually”.


What’s the reaction been?

Social media was, as ever, vocal and divided. One Microsoft user said it was “good to hear” as “a lot of people still use language that is problematic, but another said it was “truly unacceptable” and “a step on the way to automating mandatory political correctness”. Another said the new tool “will help eliminate scourges like Postman Pat, wrongly thought of as an innocuous children’s cartoon, while in reality being a bearer of patriarchal repression. Mail Carrier Pat will help alleviate this terrible wrong”.


Microsoft checks itself?

The tech giant made headlines in November at its annual conference when senior executives opened the event by stating their ethnicity, appearance, clothing and gender before speaking.