Writers show respect for all readers by writing objectively and avoiding the perpetuation of stereotypes. Word choice can indicate an author's bias. Biased language can cause a reader to focus on how a writer says something rather than what the writer says. Careful writing is inoffensive and sounds natural, not contrived.
How to Write Objectively about a Group of People
To write objectively, avoid words with negative connotations. Do not use condescending or derogatory terms when referring to anyone or any group of people. Using slang terms, such as referring to a girl as a "chick,' is demeaning. Be respectful of gender, age, ethnic, religious, occupational, socioeconomic and political groups.
When writing about a particular group of people, use the term that the group uses to refer to themselves. Some terms that used to be acceptable may now be considered offensive. For example, older people are now referred to as senior citizens, and plus-sized women are said to be full-figured. The words "impairment" and "disability" have largely replaced the word "handicap," when referring to a person with a limited ability.
Do not assume that all members of a group share certain characteristics. For example, all sailors do not swear, and all Italians are not necessarily great lovers. Avoid adding superfluous information to perpetuate a stereotype, such as pointing out that a female political candicate is a mother of two when no mention has been made of a male candidate's family status.
How to Avoid the Appearance of Racial or Ethnic Bias
Do not point out someone's race or ethnicity unless it is relevant to the context in which it is used. For example, pointing out how many Muslim or Japanese people have moved into an area will be perceived as prejudice against them. However, the following sentence is acceptable because the reference is appropriate to the context of the sentence: Because Honda has built a new automobile factory in Florence, several Japanese families have moved into our area.
How to Avoid Bias When Writing about Politicians
To encourage more civility in political discourse, avoid the emotionally-charged language that is often prevalent in politics. Instead of referring to a person as a "right-wing fanatic" or a "far left loon," use plain, straightforward language. For example, refer to a political candidate as either a conservative Republican or a liberal Democrat.
How to Avoid Pronouns That Show Gender Bias
To avoid using "he," "him", or "his," some writers use "he or she," "him or her,", or "his/her." This construction can become awkward and annoying if overused. An alternative is to use a plural antecedent so that the pronoun "they" can be used correctly. Also, try rewording the sentence to take out the pronouns.
Examples include: Every student needs to bring his or her textbook to class. All students need to bring their textbooks to class. Every student needs to bring a textbook to class.
When referring to both genders, avoid using words that end in "men" or "man," such as firemen, chairman, mailman and policemen; instead, write about the firefighters, chair, letter carrier and police officers.
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