Using Unbiased Language

What is unbiased language? The language we use needs to be sensitive to people’s sex, physical conditions, age, race, and other categories. Bias-free language is objective and does not discriminate. This is usually easier said than done. The entire objective of our writing is to try and convince the reader to accept our argument. However, in our whole-hearted attempts to do so, bias may slip through in the tone used and word selection. How can you avoid these errors?

Here are a few tips on how these errors can be prevented:

Present logical facts: Evidence-driven arguments are difficult to refute. Provide factual information to emphasize your points. An article that is supported by empirical evidence, statistics, and clinical studies stands greater chances of acceptance.

Select sources carefully: Your selected sources would convey the gist of the article. It is, therefore, important that you choose sources that are unbiased. Refer to peer-reviewed articles, reliable websites, or scholarly publications. Trustworthy sources would lend credibility to your article.

Do not generalize: Ensure that you do not make sweeping generalizations in an effort to drive your argument. For example, the sentence “Teachers do not consider the learning capabilities of individual students when teaching in class” implies that no teacher makes this consideration. This sentence can be rephrased as “Some teachers do not consider the learning capabilities of individual students when teaching in class.”

Use non-handicapping language: When talking about a disability, avoid overstressing the severity of an individual’s disability. More important, ensure that you do not equate individuals with their disability.

  • Be cautious when using the word “patient,” which implies an individual who is ill and under medical treatment; this may not be the case with people with disabilities.
  • In comparisons, do not use the word “normal” for those without disabilities, as that would imply that people with disabilities are abnormal.
  • Do not objectify an individual based on a disability; use “an individual with a physical disability” and not “a physically disabled individual.”

Avoid the use of “man” when referring to all persons: It is preferable to say “an average person/individual.” Use “people,” “persons,” or “humans” in place of “mankind.”

Avoid gendered pronouns: While it is essential to clarify the sex of individuals to differentiate genders, refrain from using “he” or “his” as generic terms to refer to both sexes. This can be done by:

  • Rephrasing sentences
  • Using plural pronouns or nouns
  • Using an article in place of the pronoun
  • Replacing the pronoun with a noun (for example, individual, researcher, or child)

Following these simple tips would enable you to ensure your language is bias-free while convincing your audience without appearing to enforce your opinion on them.