Writers who use unbiased language write in ways that are free from gender and group stereotypes including race, age, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation. By using unbiased language, writers can avoid using offensive language. This type of writing is appropriate for many different writing situations, especially in formal writing such as academic and journalistic. Writers must recognize where they are most likely to encounter problems of biased language in their writing.
English speakers use gender specific pronouns to explain the gender of the person in question, as compared to other languages that use suffixes. The singular gender pronouns, he, she, him or her, are used in speaking and writing. In the past, the male pronouns were used to denote both male and female if the sentence used a singular construction.
Here is an example: “Everyone must do his part.”
The subject of the sentence is the singular, indefinite pronoun “everyone.” This means that any accompanying pronouns that refer back to “everyone” must be singular as well. In the past, the singular pronoun “his” would suffice.
This type of singular gendered construction is no longer acceptable because it infringes on another issue of biased language called sexist terminology. Writers hesitate to use the masculine or the feminine versions of the pronoun.
Instead, many writers will use the gender neutral pronouns such as they or their. This presents a grammar problem because the singular noun “everyone” paired with a plural pronoun is grammatically incorrect. Sadly, this construction of the singular noun with a plural gender neutral pronoun is widely used in speech and has filtered into writing as well.
Writers have two alternatives to fixing this problem.
Sexist language is not confined to pronouns though. Another way to avoid gender roles and assumptions and used unbiased language is to use gender neutral endings on certain nouns. Job titles seem to carry a masculine construction that is now considered sexists and offensive.
The following list will give the example sexist language and how it can be changed to unbiased language:
Using unbiased language also means not assuming gender bias in roles that used to be predominantly male. For example, many people might assume that doctors or engineers are male because these occupations have traditionally been male dominated. Similarly nurses or teachers are not all women.
When referring to groups of people in writing, writers must avoid using insulting terminology when referring to ethnicity, sexual preference, and disabilities.
Writing using unbiased language can be challenging because it requires an understanding of what constitutes biased language in the first place. Understanding how to use gender neutral language in a grammatically correct way, non sexist terminology, and non offensive terms for identifying groups of people will be a good place to begin.
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