Avoiding Biased Language

Many times we have come across articles where the author has consciously or unconsciously used words and phrases that are offensive and prejudiced. Such expressions represent biased language that often demean or categorize people based on age, sex, physical ability, racial identity or ethnicity.

An important aspect of writing is respecting your audience. For this, the author is required to be sensitive to expressions that can result in biasness. Try the following tips to avoid biased language:

  • To remove gender bias, use nouns, pronouns, and articles that specifically describe participants. Use generic terms like person, individuals, researchers, etc. to represent both genders.
  • To avoid bias related to age, be specific and avoid open ended ranges such as under 20 and over 65 years. Use terms like boy and girl, young man and woman for high school age and younger. Use men and women for college age and older. Instead of writing elderly, use older person.
  • Acknowledge people that participated in your study. Use appropriate terms: participants, individuals, college students, children, respondents instead of subjects.
  • Avoid sexual biasness in a language by using appropriate terms for specific instances of sexual orientation and sexual behavior. Lesbians and gay men are preferable to homosexual. Use same-gender, male-male, female-female, and male-female to represent sexual behavior.
  • In case of racial and ethnic identity, use the preferred terminology. Use Black or African American instead of Negro and Afro-American. Use accepted terms like Latino, Hispanic, Chicano, Native American, American Indian, Asian, Asian American, or more specific subgroups such as Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, etc
  • While mentioning disabilities, maintain the integrity of individuals as human beings. For example, a mentally-ill person should be written as a person with a mental illness, disabled person should be person with a disability, etc.

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