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Inclusive Linting

As software professionals we should strive to promote an inclusive work environment, which naturally extends to the code and documentation we write. It's important to keep the use of inclusive language consistent across an entire project or repository.

To achieve this, we recommend using a text file analysis tool such as an inclusive linter and including this as a step in your CI pipelines.

What to Lint for

The primary goal of an inclusive linter is to flag any occurrences of non-inclusive language within source code (and optionally suggest some alternatives). Non-inclusive words or phrases in a project can be found anywhere from comments and documentation to variable names.

An inclusive linter may include its own dictionary of "default" non-inclusive words and phrases to run against as a good starting point. These tools can also be customizable, oftentimes offering the ability to omit some terms and/or add your own.

The ability to add additional terms to your linter has the added benefit of enabling linting of sensitive language on top of inclusive linting. This can prevent things such as customer names or other non-public information from making it into your git history, for instance.

Getting Started with an Inclusive Linter


One inclusive linter we recommend is woke. It is a language-agnostic CLI tool that detects non-inclusive language in your source code and recommends alternatives. While woke automatically applies a default ruleset with non-inclusive terms to lint for, you can also apply a custom rule config (via a yaml file) with additional terms to lint for. See [example.yaml] for an example of adding custom rules.

Running the tool locally on a file or directory is relatively straightforward:

$ woke test.txt

test.txt:2:2-6: `guys` may be insensitive, use `folks`, `people` instead (warning)
* guys

woke can be run locally on your machine or CI/CD system via CLI and is also available as a two GitHub Actions:

To use the standard "Run woke" GitHub Action with the default ruleset in a CI pipeline:

  1. Add the woke action as a step in your project's CI pipeline yaml:

    name: ci
      - pull_request
        name: woke
        runs-on: ubuntu-latest
          - name: Checkout
            uses: actions/checkout@v2
          - name: woke
            uses: get-woke/woke-action@v0
              # Cause the check to fail on any broke rules
              fail-on-error: true
  2. Run your pipeline

  3. View the output in the "Actions" tab in the main repository view

For more information about additional configuration and usage, see the official docs.

Last update: October 20, 2021