Biased Language

 In Modern English

When we talk about biased language we are also discussing sexism, which is just another form of bias.  Biased language is important to understand especially when you are part of another culture and what they consider biased might be very different from what passes as biased language in your country.  You might be committing all sorts of social offenses without realizing it.

Biased language refers to words, phrases that can be construed as insulting about gender (that’s sexism), age, sexual orientation, race, religious beliefs, and ethnicity.  Biased language can also mean sweeping statements about particular groups from political parties to nationalities.

Here are some tips about words and expressions you should avoid in the USA.

biased language to avoid

1. Do not use generic ‘he’.
The study abroad student will look back on his time as deeply rewarding.
The study abroad student will look back on this time as deeply rewarding
2. if you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, do not write ‘dear sir’ or ‘madam’.  Try to use a gender-neutral term instead – ‘dear customer’, ‘dear colleague’.
3. Use ‘Ms’for a woman even if the married status is known.
4.  Do not say ‘maiden name’, say ‘birth name.’
5. Do not use words like babe, chick or otherwise infantilize a person.  Do not say delivery boy but rather delivery person.
6. Do not assign gender identification to professional workers.  Say host, actor, waiter, flight attendant instead of hostess, actress, waitress. stewardess.
7. Talk about early humans and early societies instead of cavemen and early man, ancestors or forebears instead of forefathers.
8. Instead of talking about a person with an illness, mental or physical, as the sum total of their illness, talk about a person with diabetes (not a diabetic), and a person with schizophrenia (not a schizophrenic).
9. Do not use derogatory words to describe people of a certain race, ethnic background, religion or nationality. Use terms such as Latino for people who come from countries in Latin America if you do not know the country they are from.  Do not say Oriental to describe Asian Americans.  Native Americans are just that, and not ‘Indians’, and it is not alright to call Eskimos by that pejorative.  They are Inuits,
10  Referring to people with a different sexual orientation to heterosexual, it is mostly unnecessary to spell this out. We don’t talk about our neighbor as a heterosexual living next door to us.  If you have to make the point, more acceptable ways of describing those with different sexual orientation is to say lesbians and gay men, transgender rather than homosexual.

Biased language refers to words, phrases that can be construed as insulting about gender (that’s sexism), age, sexual orientation, race, religious beliefs, and ethnicity.  Biased language can also mean sweeping statements about particular groups from political parties to nationalities.

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